Testing the Waters of Medical Tourism

Find-a-Surgeon tool helps consumers locate the best possible care

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While traveling to a tropical locale to get inexpensive plastic surgery may sound like the best of both worlds during these frigid winter months, the realities can be quite chilling.

Although a recent survey claimed that one in five people would consider going to another country for medical care to save money, they also run major financial and legal risks. “There are no U.S. laws that protect patients or mandate the training and qualifications of physicians who perform plastic surgery outside of the U.S.” observes Dr. Gregory Evans, president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS).

Potential medical tourists need to think about several other factors as well. For one thing, surgery is, well, surgery. Swimming, snorkeling, biking, hiking and other fun vacation activities will most likely be off-limits. You will need to rest and take care to properly heal. Any surgery involves a certain amount of risk and if you develop complications or an infection, things can go downhill fast.

Without proper medical attention or facilities, you may be endangering yourself even more. And the very nature of travel puts additional stress on your body. Pulmonary embolisms and blood clots are more likely to develop if you combine travel with surgery, as are swelling and infections.

Also, follow-up care is rare if nonexistent once the patient returns to the U.S. Not only may local physicians be unfamiliar with the techniques used in the original operation, but revision surgeries, as they are known, can be more complicated, expensive, and achieve less-than-desired results. And should the surgery involve implants or other devices manufactured outside the U.S. they may be unsafe and lack FDA approval. So you may end up paying more in fixing the problem and time off work than if the surgery had been performed domestically.

Still up for an adventure in medical tourism? The ASPS recommends using their Find-a-Surgeon tool which will allow you to search for qualified plastic surgeons in the U.S. and around the world.

Photo: Passport by seanhobson on Flickr

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