Surgery Abroad? Think Again
Medical bodies like the NHS, BAPRAS and BAAPS all strongly advise against plastic surgery abroad, and for good reason.
Written by Medical Quality Manager, Clare , BN (Hons)
Medical Review by Chief Commercial Officer, Dr. Lizzie Tuckey , MBBS, BA
Published: Wednesday, 22 June 2022
No matter how luxurious a plastic surgery holiday may seem, there are major risks associated with travelling for cosmetic procedures. In fact, medical bodies like the NHS, BAPRAS and BAAPS all strongly advise against having plastic surgery abroad, and for good reason. It’s your health and wellbeing on the line, so you must be informed and make a personal decision if the following risks are genuinely worth it for you. If you’re tempted to go overseas for surgery, we’ve compiled 5 points to consider before committing.
You can’t trust everything you see online
Sadly, the cosmetic surgery tourism industry is not above massaging the truth to lure patients to medical tourism hotspots, including Turkey, Poland or Thailand.
Unscrupulous online marketing tactics are largely unregulated, meaning that the hundreds of positive reviews you see on consumer sites could be fake. What looks like a premium facility may really only be an illusion created by elaborate and aggressive marketing. Companies who do this are poised to put their profit before results or safety. It’s easy to convey a degree of professionalism online by using vague or outright false claims of pain-free surgeries or internationally renowned surgeons.
Just so you know, no surgery can ever be truthfully called pain-free because of the invasive nature of surgery (meaning the skin is cut and the body must heal from these wounds after surgery which naturally causes some level of pain or discomfort). If you ever see a surgery provider claiming their procedures are painless, consider it a warning that they may be less than trustworthy.
Unfortunately, there is little to prevent subpar clinics from inflating the credentials of their surgeons or surgical centres or embellishing the quality of the hotel or resort. All we can recommend is to take the claims on these websites with a grain of salt and try to do your own research into local or international medical authorities that can help verify credentials.
Language barriers & distance could get in the way of your research & results
The regulatory bodies BAAPS, BAPRAS, and the GMC ensure that the cosmetic surgery industry in the UK meets certain strict standards.
There are different criteria in other countries as well as different medical societies and organisations that monitor and maintain medical standards. This, plus distance and any translating wants and needs from one language to another, can make it incredibly difficult to determine a surgeon’s level of certification. Even if a surgeon is highly skilled, a patient may find that their expectations for their results are still difficult to communicate when they’re in a different country or time zone to their surgeon without even considering a language barrier.
When you only meet your surgeon once before the procedure, you’re less likely to get a personalised, thorough consultation and even less likely to feel supported if any complications or undesired results develop.
Traveling is stressful & potentially dangerous post-operatively
Adding a deluxe holiday to your procedure sounds like a good idea, but you should think again if you’re planning to fly out, have your procedure and return all within a few short days. Rest and reduced stress are essential to healing and recovery, but when was the last time you felt restful during international travel?
Even if you give yourself ample time between your flights and surgery, you may still find the rush and bustle of airport queues and taxis a little overwhelming while you're healing. Plus, you’ll be unable to participate in any of the exciting or fun activities or attractions that may usually come with a luxurious holiday abroad. Drinking alcohol, swimming, sunbathing, any water sport, and vigorous exercise are strictly advised against in the days and even weeks after any surgery to ensure healing progresses nicely.
Doing too much activity or submerging your incision in water can drastically increase your chance of contracting an infection or another complication like bleeding or swelling. Any of these can delay your healing and even alter the quality of your final results.
A low price may cost you the quality of care
While exchange rates can account for part of the lower surgery costs abroad, most budget package deals are only possible because the hospitals and companies offering these holidays cut corners.
Weaker governmental regulation and steep competition in countries known for medical tourism mean some clinics will do whatever they can to offer you the lowest price possible. This could force them to gamble with your safety or hire less than reputable surgeons who are willing to perform high volumes of surgeries daily. Especially if your surgery is a relatively new technique or complex, you may be putting your health at risk if the surgeon is overworked, under-trained, or tempted to pinch pennies in order to make their bottom line.
What happens if something goes wrong?
Cosmetic surgery clinics abroad are motivated to downplay or ignore the risk of complications or unwanted results that are always associated with surgery. Unfortunately, it can be extremely difficult for patients in these situations to follow up with their surgeon or healthcare provider if any complications do develop or if they’re unhappy with their results.
Many UK surgeons are inundated with patients needing corrective surgery after a procedure abroad, meaning the so-called affordable holiday surgery ends up costing these patients far more in the long run. What’s more, the NHS will almost certainly refuse to help correct any unwanted results unless it’s life-threatening. This compels patients to either travel abroad again to the same surgeon or pay a local and more expensive surgeon to treat their complications or help fix their results.
If you’re considering surgery abroad, it’s worth remembering that in most cases, “you get what you pay for.”
Take your time to research the clinic and surgeon you’re interested in thoroughly and research the regulating boards and bodies they’re registered with. Be realistic about claims or prices that seem too good to be true. If you have any doubt about your safety with a clinic abroad, it may be worth delaying a procedure until you can save to afford treatment in the UK. This way, you can be more confident in the standard of care you’re receiving and enjoy peace of mind that you have the necessary support should any complications arise.
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