According to survey data recently released by researchers at the University of Iowa, fewer Americans than previously supposed are engaging in medical tourism, or the practice of seeking cheaper plastic surgery and other procedures in countries outside the U.S.
Brandon Alleman and his team of researchers at the University of Iowa surveyed 45 companies that facilitate medical tourism for U.S. patients and found that these companies have referred only about 13,500 U.S. residents to healthcare and cosmetic surgery facilities outside the country.
These companies represent about 70 percent of the market serving U.S. medical tourists, so if, say 23,000 American patients traveled abroad for medical treatments, that makes up only a tiny fraction of the number of patients treated in the U.S. each year.
This is good news to Eugene plastic surgeon Dr. Lee Daniel, as he and many of his colleagues, as well as respected plastic surgery organizations like the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, discourage American patients from traveling abroad for cosmetic procedures like liposuction, breast augmentation and even injectables for a number of reasons.
For instance, countries outside the U.S. where plastic surgery is less expensive often do not have adequate standards of care and official oversight designed to prevent avoidable complications and poor outcomes.
There is also concern over whether medical tourists actually receive treatment with the products or devices they think they are getting, and that they paid for. Many patients think they’re getting Botox or Restylane, but end up getting cheap knock-offs of the real thing, along with poor results.
In addition, most plastic surgeons agree that it is important to receive follow-up care from the physician who performed the procedure, which is not usually possible weeks or months after surgery, when patients have returned to their homes in the U.S. In fact, the study results showed that 93 percent of companies brokering medical tourism packages expect follow-up care to be performed by U.S. physicians.
Given the fact that many physicians are uncomfortable providing follow-up care to patients on whom they did not perform the initial surgical procedure, it can be not only difficult to find a physician who will provide post-surgical follow-up care for patients who have traveled abroad for cosmetic surgery, but costly to hire a new physician as well, especially if complications arise and revision surgery is needed.
To avoid the potential risks and difficulties with follow-up care that can arise from medical tourism, it’s best to first choose an accessible, board-certified plastic surgeon who performs surgery and other cosmetic procedures in appropriately accredited U.S. facilities.
Let cost be your final consideration in choosing a surgeon, as paying slightly more for a great outcome the first time can end up being much less expensive than paying separately for follow-up care and multiple revision procedures down the road.
There are also a number of financing options available to Americans who do not have the cash in-hand needed to pay for plastic surgery, so there is little reason to travel abroad when some of the world’s best surgeons are in your own backyard.