The Dangers of Cosmetic Tourism

Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) is strongly advising all Australians to think twice before travelling overseas for cosmetic surgery with a new survey showing the number of Australians returning home with complications is on the rise.

The survey of plastic surgeons has revealed that over half of those conducting cosmetic tourism revisions are seeing more patients requiring assistance in the last 12 months compared to the previous year. In fact, the average rise of cases for these surgeons is a staggering 38 per cent.

The most common kind of surgery conducted overseas requiring corrective treatment was breast surgery (representing 68 per cent of all revision procedures), followed by facial surgery (15 per cent), abdomen revisions (8 per cent), body contouring (5 per cent) and ear revisions (0.5 per cent).

ASPS President Associate Professor Rodney Cooter warns that cosmetic surgery is no different to any other kind of surgery in that it carries serious risk and should be carefully considered. “Cosmetic surgery is no holiday. Cosmetic surgery packages sold as holidays downplay the importance of the post-operative period. Any kind of major surgery, cosmetic or otherwise, requires a high level of post-operative care. That means rest and healing time to reduce the risk of complications. It’s not about sunbathing, drinking cocktails, swimming and snorkelling before jetting home,” explains Associate Professor Cooter.

Some of the countries to which Australians commonly travel for cosmetic surgery include Thailand, Malaysia and South America. “Some of the surgeons operating in these countries are highly skilled professionals. It is important that we make that point. We are not saying that anyone who travels to another country for a procedure is making a mistake. What we are saying is that post-operative care and monitoring is an important part of any surgery. Ask yourself what follow-up care will I get back in Australia after my operation? Who will help me if something goes wrong?” says Associate Professor Cooter.

With that he recommends the following checklist for those planning overseas surgery:

1) Is your surgeon a member of the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery? This at least means they have some form of recognised qualification.

2) Have you got the right information and had enough time to give informed consent? Two weeks between appointments?

3) Are the medical standards of care and quality control requirements at least as good as those in Australia?

4) Do you know whether or not devices and products used in overseas hospitals meet Australian standards? An implant used in Australia must meet strict standards of safety and effectiveness, a process regulated by the TGA. Other countries may not have similar regulations.

5) Have you got a plan for what you will do in the case of post-operative problems?

6) Check out the person promoting the surgery. Are they medically trained? Do they accept any liability or provide any help if problems arise or are they simply a ‘travel agent’ or ‘broker’?

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