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Cosmetic surgery abroad: The need-to-know facts

Posted on January 9, 2019

By Mr Georgios Orfaniotis, Expert Aesthetic Surgeon, MyAesthetics MyBreast

Why do people choose to have cosmetic surgery abroad?

Cost is usually one of the biggest factors. People are also tempted by the allure of combining surgery with a holiday, believing it promises more value for money and a better overall experience than surgery at home.

However, what many people don’t realise is a typical vacation and surgery just don’t mix. You need sufficient time to recover after a procedure, which means avoiding lying in the sun, doing energetic activities or drinking alcohol.

Why is it sometimes cheaper abroad than in the UK?

Cosmetic surgery is regulated differently in other countries, so standards of care may vary and the cost of regulation be less.

UK cosmetic surgery is highly regulated by industry bodies, the Healthcare Commission and the General Medical Council. What people don’t realise is this type of regulation is expensive for both the surgeons and practices. So, these costs often have to be factored in, so the clinics don’t run at a loss.

UK aesthetic surgeons must have total malpractice indemnity, in case a surgery doesn’t go to plan. This means those seeking surgery in the UK are fully protected and obtain the best possible care and treatment.

Is going abroad a risk?

While choosing to have a procedure abroad might seem like a cost-effective alternative, the whole experience is not always as smooth as expected and can even present additional challenges.

In the UK this information should be relatively easy to find, from the sites of representative bodies for maintaining excellent industry standards, like the General Medical Council, BAPRAS, BAAPS or ISAPS.

You may find there are similar associations abroad where you can check to see if the surgeon is a member and you should always ask a surgeon what training and qualifications they have, years in practice, and which organisations they belong to.

It’s also important to make sure your surgeon speaks sufficient English to make sure your queries are fully understood.

How can I minimise the risks?

Research the treatment and read reviews to make sure you pick the right practice for you. It’s imperative not to be swayed by offers or deals. Your surgery should only be performed by fully accredited plastic surgeons who are part of the representative bodies for maintaining excellent industry standards.

Any potential cost savings that might arise from travelling abroad should be balanced against other considerations, like the need to take time off work and the cost of possibly returning to the overseas clinic for corrections.

Bear in mind, other countries won’t necessarily have a similar licensing and inspection regime for their hospitals and clinics. You should ask about the regulation of the clinic, its record on infection rates and what backup services are available on the main clinic site if something were to go wrong during your operation or stay.

Whether you’re having cosmetic surgery abroad, or in the UK, it’s imperative to gather as much information beforehand as possible to ensure you have everything you need to make a well-informed choice.

You should never feel rushed in making any decision and always be offered a second consultation following a 2-week cooling-off period. This will allow you time to consider your options and ensure you are 100 percent happy with the proposed plan for your surgery.

Is it really worth it?

While some may save money from a cosmetic procedure abroad, seeing a UK surgeon allows you the benefit of time and any additional consultations to build confidence in your surgeon and the procedure before making your decision.

At MyAesthetics MyBreast, we believe the more scrupulous, face-to-face time surgeons have with the individual, the better. We welcome return consultations at no additional cost, to ensure the surgeon and patient are on the same page at the end of that journey.

In the UK, it’s easy to find out if someone is a fully accredited plastic surgeon and part of the representative bodies for maintaining excellent industry standards. As I mentioned earlier, this information is sometimes harder to find out from a cosmetic surgery practice abroad.

All this should be considered when deciding whether going abroad is actually better value for money.

Of course, cosmetic surgery has its risks wherever it takes place. However, if you had your surgery abroad it’s more difficult to deal with any complications, specifically if they happen after returning home, where there is not a direct point of contact with your surgeon.

It’s also important for patients to know that the NHS will only treat severe and life-threatening complications after any cosmetic surgery. It does not offer government funding for any revision surgery such as implant replacement (e.g. after infection or implant rupture requires removal of the implants), scar revisions and other botched outcomes.

There are travel risks to consider on top of other potential complications. Flying back soon after surgery can increase the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

DVT occurs when a blood clot forms in a vein, usually in the calf, partially or completely blocking blood flow. It can cause pain and swelling in the leg and may lead to complications such as pulmonary embolism.

This is a severe condition that occurs when part of a blood clot breaks off into the bloodstream and obstructs a blood vessel in the lungs.

Symptoms of a pulmonary embolism include breathlessness, chest pain and potentially fatal collapse.

The safe time after surgery to fly should be discussed with your surgeon and decided on an individual basis. There are important factors to take into consideration such as the type and duration of the operation, recovery time, length of the flight, and of course, the patient’s medical history and current medications.

I generally advise patients against flying for a minimum of 2 weeks after day-case cosmetic procedures and until they are completely healed. This time period increases to 4-6 weeks for body lift surgery and tummy tucks.

Will my insurance cover it?

It’s rare a standard holiday insurance policy will cover you should the worst happen once you’ve travelled abroad for surgery.

I’d recommend taking active steps to ensure you have full insurance coverage as the cost of extended medical care, both abroad and in the UK, can be extremely expensive.

What should I be looking for in a cosmetic surgeon and practice?

A quality cosmetic surgeon, no matter which country they’re based in, will encourage you to learn as much as possible about a potential procedure and clearly lay out all the key considerations, details and possible risks to your surgery.

Look closely at your surgeons’ qualifications and seek their advice on the procedure you’re considering. There are some highly-trained plastic surgeons outside the UK but it can be more difficult to check the qualifications of surgeons abroad.

This is because other countries use different systems and, due to varying standards and qualifications, it’s not always easy to work out if a surgeon overseas is a fully trained plastic surgeon.

Find out more about Mr Georgios Orfaniotis