Updated interview with Dr. Theo Nyame on October 17, 2022:
You may have heard of medical tourism, or more specifically, “plastic surgery tourism.” People who want to save money sometimes travel to another country where a procedure may be less expensive. However, please be aware of medical tourism dangers.
More and more people seek cosmetic procedures. The Aesthetic Society released a report stating that surgical procedures increased by 54% and non-surgical procedures were up 44% in 2021 compared to 2020. However, some of those people went abroad seeking a bargain.
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) warns prospective patients they face additional risks when they go abroad. In the US, plastic surgeons meet rigorous standards that require periodic check-ins with patients as they heal. A non-local patient wouldn’t be able to access the same follow-up care. There is always a risk of complications, so access to follow-up monitoring and care is a compelling reason to go local.
However, the risks run even deeper as some areas may have a more lax standard of patient care. Charlotte Plastic Surgery’s own Dr. Theo Nyame spoke with the news team at WBTV. The reporter shared a story of a young Texan woman who died due to a botched nose job after traveling to Mexico to save money. Her anesthetic was injected into the wrong part of her spine. Tragedies like this are too common with the recent trend of plastic surgery tourism.
While there are excellent plastic surgeons in Mexico and all over the world, it is harder to vet a doctor when you are not local to the area. Dr. Nyame commented that people often go with the first result they see through a Google search. Search engine placement is often more a result of marketing tactics than medical skills. Sadly, some patients learned the hard way after they experienced complications from plastic surgery abroad that were serious enough to turn to Dr. Nyame for reconstructive surgery.
“This isn’t just cosmetic surgery,” Dr. Nyame explained. “Now it’s reconstructive surgery, to make them whole again. It’s challenging.”
The ASPS also offers one more important thing to consider. In the U.S., patients are somewhat protected by negligence and malpractice laws and numerous local, state, and federal regulations. When you go abroad, you may not have the same protections and often have no legal recourse if things go wrong.
“My heart breaks for them,” said Dr. Nyame. “My heart breaks for them because most of the time, the reason they sought out discounted plastic surgery is that they didn’t have the means. Now they’ve had a procedure performed sometimes just to get healed is going to require more time” (and expense).
While plastic surgery is generally safe in the hands of skilled physicians, it is still elective and invasive surgery. All surgeries have risks, and sometimes the risk is higher for a specific patient due to pre-existing health conditions, prior surgery, genetics, and other lifestyle factors.
A well-reputed local plastic surgery practice like Charlotte Plastic Surgery is accountable to you as a patient and the community. This means the doctors take their role as physicians seriously and advise against procedures that are not appropriate for a specific patient. Often, the practices that cater to medical tourists do not have the same level of accountability and may rush into a procedure when a patient may have serious risk factors.
Dr. Nyame described his guiding approach when considering whether to agree to perform a procedure for a patient. “You know, I think of every patient like a family member, and I tell them all the time if this isn’t something I would do for a family member of mine. This isn’t something I’m going to offer to you.”
If you are considering going abroad for plastic surgery, we urge you to book a local consultation first.
Dr. Nyame and the team at Charlotte Plastic Surgery have a proven track record of treating residents of Charlotte, NC. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.
Medical tourism has become increasingly popular in the United States. Men and women of all ages are now looking at regions outside of the United States where surgery and medical procedures are performed for a fraction of the price. Everything from dental work and hair transplants to more invasive surgeries such as breast augmentations, liposuction, and tummy tucks are performed. Now, it isn’t to say it is impossible to find quality medical services in other countries in the world. However, most medical tourism dangers take place in third-world countries. Mexico, Thailand, India, the Dominican Republic, and portions of Eastern Europe are all common destinations for medical tourism. While there’s nothing wrong with looking around for ways to save money, it is important to understand the underlying risks and dangers of plastic surgery tourism.
Those patients taking the risks associated with medical tourism is a close-to-home reality for Charlotte Plastic Surgery. Watch the FOX46 interview with Dr. Nyame discusses the countless life-saving procedures he performed on one local Charlotte mom who now lives to tell her story and warn others of the risks involved with opting for medical tourism.
What Makes It More Affordable?
The desire of medical tourism is to travel to a less expensive destination, receive a medical service, and, in the case of locations such as Thailand and Mexico, to relax on the beach while recovering before flying back home. But what makes the medical services more affordable?
There are a handful of reasons. First, the cost of living and wages in these countries is substantially lower, so the price of a doctor goes down with it. Medical insurance for these doctors is also less, as doctors in the United States need to carry with them more forms of insurance coverage. Both of these variables are reflected in the cost of medical services provided in the second and third world countries.
Where the Dangers of Plastic Surgery Tourism Come From
However, there are other elements at play regarding medical services in these countries. These are the elements that can lead to medical tourism dangers. First, many of these nations do not have the same strict standards of drugs, medications, and implants as what you find in Western Europe and the United States. Due to this, medical teams in Mexico can use medications that are not always approved in the U.S. Depending on the medical facility these drugs may be past expiration dates as well. This can cause serious side effects during the procedure.
When you go to a medical practitioner in the United States for a tummy tuck or Brachioplasty there is a complete medical background taken. This isn’t just based on the information you give but on the documented history your doctor will obtain. This is information a third world country doctor will not have access to. Now, these doctors will almost never meaningfully put you in harm’s way, but they simply do not have access to the same kind of medical history. Due to this, if you are allergic to certain medications or materials, you may not realize there is a problem until after the surgery, where your body begins to reject the implant.
In other instances, the clinic is not as well maintained. When performing invasive surgeries such as a tummy tuck, it is important to work in a completely sterile environment. If bacteria is able to enter your body it can cause all kinds of problems as it infects your body from the inside. In the United States, there are specific requirements all clinics and hospitals must follow. These rules and laws are different in locations where medical tourism is popular.
Watch as Dr. Nyame explains on WSOC 9 the top ways to identify the red flags when shopping around for cosmetic surgery abroad plus how to identify the most critical requirements a plastic surgeon should boast, if you do decide to go abroad for a plastic surgery procedure.
The Skill and Credentials of The Plastic Surgeons
It is true few surgeries performed in these locations outside of the United States result in catastrophic injuries or illness to the patient. There’s a good chance the surgery will be performed without any health problems (although you need to ask yourself whether you want to take this risk in the first place). However, while the chances are slim you would experience any kind of lasting harm on account of medical tourism, the skill and credentials of the plastic surgeon provided by these locations is often less than desired.
In the United States, a doctor will specialize in plastic surgery, liposuction, breast augmentations, and other surgeries. They will specifically study this in medical school, work through a residency, obtain their license and receive board certifications to perform the specific surgeries. In other countries, this is not always the case. While each country is different, medical costs for medical tourism are often down because the doctors did not need to go through extensive medical training.
So you need to ask yourself if you really want to work with someone with less skill and training when it comes to breast implants, hair transplants, or tummy tucks? A bad breast implant can end up costing more to repair and improve the form than it would have originally cost if you had just had the implant performed in the United States in the first place.
Before and Afters
One of the best ways to identify the quality of a medical physician is to do your research. You need to look into their medical background, know where the doctor went to school, what kind of certificates and awards they have, and also look into the before and after photographs.
When researching destinations for possible medical tourism you will often find the medical background of the primary doctor is not listed, or it is generic and does not provide much in the way of insights. You’ll also often find the before and after photographs are not all that impressive. These clinics survive based on international dollars coming in from locations like Western Europe and the United States. Due to this, the clinics will only show the best of the best. Even so, if these photographs are less than desirable it is a definitive sign that the medical clinic in the third world country is not providing the highest level of service or skill.
Is Plastic Surgery Tourism Worth The Risk?
Yes, there are individuals out there who are happy with the medical tourism experience. However, there are others who were put into harm’s way, were forced to undergo life-saving surgery to correct issues with the tourism surgery, or who simply received inferior services from doctors who are not skilled in their craft. So, while you might be able to save a few dollars, you need to ask yourself is it really worth the risk?
To find out more about the plastic surgery services available in the United States, contact Charlotte Plastic Surgery at your earliest convenience.
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