An article was recently released detailing the top 5 countries in the world for cosmetic surgery. Implied in the article is the idea of medical tourism, or deciding to take a trip to have a cosmetic procedure performed usually because it’s cheaper than home, or marketed as better.
American board certified plastic surgeons discuss the article on the latest episode No Spin Live, specifically helping patients to understand whether or not traveling to a surgeon is wise and/or necessary.
Traveling for Plastic Surgery
Travel for cosmetic surgery is nothing new. Many patients from all across the world descend upon the United States for surgery, as well as the other top 5 countries: Mexico, Brazil, Italy, and Japan. For casual readers – and persons who may be interested in the idea of cosmetic surgery – is this list definitive and/or important?
“I look at this and I think, ‘Where is the most cosmetic surgery done in the world?’ It’s probably those countries!” says board certified plastic surgeon Dr. Jason Pozner. “So that’s the place to go cause we probably do the most and we’ve been doing it for the longer period of time. We know our Brazilian colleagues are very involved in cosmetic surgery and are actually more involved than the United States in times past.”
Dr. Pozner makes a good point in that these lists denoting the “best” places for cosmetic surgery are maybe pointing out where the field is most performed and common. This matters because if an industry is heavily researched and participated in, it’s probably going to produce more and better practitioners. If the US and Brazil have “the best” cosmetic surgery, that’s another way of saying the industry in those country is huge, there is a high demand, and thus more great surgeons will rise in under growing, vibrant conditions.
The Truth is… There are Great Surgeons Everywhere
One aspect of “best of” lists is an unspoken charge that countries not on the list must not have great surgeons and should be avoided. This is very, very far from the truth, and is an inaccurate reading. “There really are great surgeons throughout the world,” shares board certified plastic surgeon Dr. Stafford Broumand. “I tell people, ‘You don’t send your shirts to be dry cleaned to Malaysia, you do it where you are.’ You can find someone who is quite talented in your neighborhood, vicinity, or your region. I don’t necessarily say that you have to stay in Oshkosh (where there probably are good surgeons!); go to where the surgeries are done on a regular basis, proficiently. We are masters of what we do, and we do these things proficiently. You want to go to the masters.”
Dr. Broumand strikes another key point: what matters in selecting a surgeon is discovering their credentials, of course, but also how regularly they’re performing the procedures you’re interested in and how proficiently. There are absolutely astonishing rhinoplasty surgeons who may have a national reputation, does this mean that’s the surgeon to select when desiring a breast augmentation. It could be so, maybe that surgeon is very well-known for nose surgery but spends half of his or her time performing breast surgery, too. Or maybe they concentrate only on rhinoplasty. Nuances like these are extremely important for patients; knowing a surgeon is “great” could mean a lot of things, and may be irrelevant considering the procedure patients have in mind.
The Risks of Travel
Undoubtedly, there are unbelievable surgeons all over the planet. When expert plastic surgeons advise against medical tourism, they’re usually pointing to the risks involved, not the abilities of the surgeons in question.
For example, perhaps a patient discovers an incredible surgeon in Brazil and is most curious in selecting he or she because the overall costs are much lower than going down the street in the US. For the inexperienced, a trip to Brazil, their procedure, room and board on the beach during recovery for less than a procedure at home sounds very enticing. The problem is not whether or not that surgeon will do a fine job, but the risks that all surgery carries. If a patient has a complication, would they rather be in Brazil or down the street from friends and family?
“There is a bit of danger in saying people can’t have good outcomes and good surgeries in other places, because I think they can,” explains board certified plastic surgeon Dr. Brian Brzowski. “We run into the pitfall of saying, ‘Oh, why would you ever have surgery down there?’ because there are examples of people who’ve had lovely results. It’s just what is the magnitude of the risk they’re taking by doing it in that location, and sometimes they fall off on the negative side.”
At the end of the day, cosmetic surgery is surgery, and surgery is always a risky endeavor. The chances that significant complications arise are low, but not 0. Patients need to understand the potential and factor that into whether or not they want to travel thousands of miles for a certain surgeon or a certain price, when perhaps both might be attained within an hour of their home.
That all said, Dr. Broumand explains that the “best of” lists do tell some truths.”The real deal is, people come to the United States for medical care, and there’s a reason for that.”