Survey Reveals Risks of Medical Tourism

risks of medical tourism There has been an increase in the number of people traveling abroad for cosmetic surgery, but what are the risks of medical tourism?

The CDC notes that “medical tourism is a worldwide, multibillion-dollar phenomenon that is expected to grow substantially in the next 5 – 10 years. However, little reliable epidemiologic data on medical tourism exist.”

Because of this lack of data, researchers did a survey of 2,000 plastic surgeons in the United States, asking them about their experience of treating patients with complications after they had cosmetic surgery outside of the country.

Of 368 respondents, 80 percent had experience with patients who had traveled abroad for cosmetic procedures, and 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.