Is Medical Tourism Worth It?   

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Imperfections are a thing of the past — with a little help from the right medical professional. Plastic surgery is becoming more common and the high costs of procedures are causing some to outsource. Known as medical tourism, men and women are going to exotic lands to get the body of their dreams. However, sometimes the cost of beauty cannot be afforded or refunded.  


Earlier this year, The Aesthetic Society released its annual Aesthetic Plastic Surgery Statistics for 2020. According to the reports, Americans spent more than $9 billion dollars on cosmetic surgery in 2020. Despite the pandemic, surgeries still were performed. With the most popular procedures in America being liposuction, breast augmentation and abdominoplasty, commonly known as a tummy tuck, men and women are opting into medical treatments overseas.  


Traveling to another country for plastic surgery is becoming increasingly popular as many look to cut the costs associated with each procedure. Patients Beyond Borders reports patients are required to pay cash for medical procedures abroad. Costing an average of $3,800-$6,000 per visit, not per procedure, allows medical tourists to get more bang for their buck.  


Factoring in travel, hotel and other accommodations including admission to hospitals, translators and transportation, medical tourism facilitation companies are emerging. Taking the reins on patients’ experiences, these companies help to smooth travels and provide a comfortable stay while recovering post-surgery. Some procedures require patients to stay in their surgical country of choice for at least a week before boarding the flight back to the States.  


With the majority of patients traveling to South America, Central America, and the Caribbean, Mexico and Costa Rica have become hubs for medical tourists. Though the pandemic slowed air travel and decreased financial stability, Americans spent a total of $9 billion in 2020. This data is tracked by the Aesthetics Neural Network, or ANN.  


“2020 was a unique year to say the least. We believe there were several factors that came together to drive aesthetic surgery even during the pandemic— the boom in video calls and more opportunity for discreet downtime. Utilizing ANN data helps us better represent the specialty of aesthetic plastic surgery, especially in a year wrought with uncertainty,” says Dr. Herluf G. Lund Jr., president of The Aesthetic Society.  


While considering travel to another country for medical treatment, it is important to consider potential complications. As no medical procedure is risk-free, medical tourism could result in serious injury, infection or death from complications. The International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS) stands to provide patient safety abroad in medical procedures and treatment. Board-certified doctors are always best for medical procedures.  


“Cosmetic surgery abroad can be incredibly risky because the standards vary from one country to the next. It is essential that patients find board-certified plastic surgeons, regardless of where they have a procedure performed,” says Dr. Susumu Takayanagi, president of ISAPS. “Patient safety is our highest priority. ISAPS membership is exclusive to board-certified plastic surgeons who must be current members of their national plastic surgery society.” 


Quality of care concerns remain a top worry for travelers. Expectations, safety regulations and medical treatment overseas are not always consistent with American standards. Counterfeit pain medication is also cause for concern. With drug laws also varying county to country, pharmacies abroad have been known to present altered or fake prescription drugs. Patients have even reported instances of having to supply their own pain medications. In an attempt to safeguard medications, the Centers for Disease Control suggests not purchasing or taking any prescriptions abroad.  


“Bring with them the medicines they think they will need for the entire time they are away; include additional supply in case of trip delays. Hand carry all medications in carry-on luggage and not in checked baggage,” the CDC website suggests.  


Surgery in America is more expensive, but is safer with pharmaceutical and medical laws in place. When considering any surgery, patients should consult with their physician to be sure the procedure is safe.  


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