The Risks of Traveling for Plastic Surgery

Plastic Surgeon Dr. Millicent Geers

Dr. Millicent Geers

Many people travel for plastic surgery to get a better deal. This is known as plastic surgery tourism or cosmetic surgery tourism. The sad irony is that these people often end up paying more than if they had just gone to a local Plastic Surgeon. If everything goes smoothly, then you came out ahead. But why gamble with your body? When something goes wrong and your Plastic Surgeon is in a different state or country, what are you going to do? Where are you going to go? This is when plastic surgery tourism becomes problematic. If your Plastic Surgeon is local, you can simply call his/her office to make an appointment. Small issues can be stopped from becoming bigger issues when you have timely, easy access to your Plastic Surgeon. If you’ve travelled for your original surgery and are then counting on a local Plastic Surgeon to take care of you without having made prior arrangements, you need to know that many Plastic Surgeons are loathe to take on complications for a patient for whom they did not perform the original operation. And if they do decide to take you on as a patient, know that you are going to pay a pretty penny for the new Plastic Surgeon to provide his/her expertise and care. The thousands you thought you “saved” from flying to Miami or Mexico or the Dominican Republic will end up being paid to your new Plastic Surgeon. You may end up spending even more than what you thought you would have saved! Unfortunately, this is how some people discover the real cost of plastic surgery tourism.

Just last week a Primary Care colleague told me about a patient who’d had a tummy tuck in Miami three weeks prior. The tummy tuck incision had dead tissue and was now breaking down, draining, infected, and in need of immediate care. The patient (who lives in Colorado Springs where there are numerous, competent Plastic Surgeons who can perform a beautiful abdominoplasty) had to be referred to the Emergency Room. From there, she was referred to a wound clinic. She will now have to have intensive wound care and possibly additional surgery to cut out the dead tissue. And this additional care won’t be for free! Most major medical insurance policies have excluded payment for complications if they are the result of an elective cosmetic procedure, even if medically necessary. The wound care center where she was referred to commented, “Oh, the out-of-town abdominoplasty. We get about one of these a month.”

Let me be clear. I am not saying that complications and wound care won’t occur if your Plastic Surgeon is local. What I am saying is that when you have timely, easy access to your Plastic Surgeon, little problems can be kept from becoming bigger problems. And when it comes to saving money, the fees for your postoperative appointments are already included with your original surgery. Now that’s a deal!