A survey of 2,000 American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) members asking them about their experience of treating patients with complications after they had plastic surgery abroad sheds new light on the risks of medical tourism.
According to the CDC, medical tourism is expected to grow substantially in the next five to ten years, but little data on outcomes, follow-up or complication rates exists.
Because of this lack of data, researchers conducted the survey and received 368 responses. Eighty percent of the plastic surgeons who responded said they had experience with patients who had traveled abroad for cosmetic procedures. Over half (51.6 percent) said they had noticed an increasing trend over the last five years in the number of patients presenting with complications from medical tourism.
According to the survey results, which were published in the latest Aesthetic Surgery Journal, the majority of these patients had breast augmentation or body contouring procedures.
The surgeons also reported the following about these patients:
More than half required multiple operations upon seeking treatment for their complications.
The largest percentage (31%) of complications occurred as a result of infection.
Other common complications were dehiscence, contour abnormality and hematoma.
Medical tourism patients are often lured by the apparent lower cost of surgery elsewhere or by the availability of procedures that are not approved here in the U.S. However, these patients may not be well informed about the importance of outcomes and the risk of complications, said Dr. Kaveh Alizadeh, co-author of the study. When patients return to the U.S., it can become a costly scenario if they develop complications and the procedure or patient is not covered by medical insurance.
Alizadeh recommended surgeons educate their patients on the pitfalls of cosmetic surgery tourism.