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Cosmetic Surgery Vacations: Risky and on the Rise


One of the latest trends in cosmetic surgery is offshore operations. But you should think seriously about a sun, sand, surf and stitches vacation, says the CDC, surgeons, plastic surgery societies and other experts.

Interest in cosmetic surgery in the U.S. is just about over the moon.

Not only do we spend our spare time watching television reality and drama shows about facial and body rejuvenations, but millions of us pony up and present our not-so-perfect countenances to cosmetic surgeons in record numbers. We may even be in the middle of a cosmetic surgery bubble.

But vacation facelifts? Overseas cosmetic surgery has become a trend, and like every other fad, there are pros and cons. Sure, offshore procedures are cheaper, but danger and complications may lurk.

Ads for cosmetic surgery in exotic places around the globe are popping up just about everywhere. Some suggest you have your surgery in the U.S. and then recover in the dream vacation of a lifetime.

However, many other ads ask you to travel to distant locales to undergo a facial rejuvenation. For instance, Xinhua, China, is currently popular with its 100 cosmetic surgery centers while Malaysia targets breast surgery tourists. Airlines are also getting in on the trend. For instance, Valuair, Singapore’s first budget airline, is launching a series of regional tours that combine short holidays with stops for cosmetic surgery. The airline’s Meditour to Bangkok runs $2200 from California. Internet surfers are bringing up Beautiful Vacations, a website written in English, French, Dutch, German and Arabic. The site arranges cosmetic, plastic and reconstructive tours to Indonesia. Costa Rica advertises itself as “the Beverly Hills of the South” because it has so many cosmetic surgeons.

Of course, a cosmetic surgery vacation is not without risk. For instance, so many women in the Eastern U.S. have been traveling to the Dominican Republic for fat removal procedures; the process has picked up its own moniker: Lipotourism.

“Something that cheap can be very costly -- it can cost your life,” says New York City Councilman Miguel Martinez who is concerned because many New York City residents have been returning home after surgery and then complaining of boils, swelling and red splotches on their skin. Botched surgery returnees have also been reported in Massachusetts, North Carolina, Rhode Island and Puerto Rico.

In England, the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons is seeing increasing numbers of patients seeking facelifts traveling to East Europe or Africa for low-cost surgery. One English plastic surgeon said he saw two patients who went to Eastern Europe for abdominoplasty (“tummy tuck”) whose wounds reopened following the surgery.

Before you sign on to a cosmetic surgery vacation, advises the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, (ASAPS) you should think about your medical condition. Do you really want to sign up for water skiing, gymnastics or the fifty foot diving platform with fresh stitches?

“Suffice it to say, you won’t be ready for horseback riding or a round of golf,” advises the ASAPS. “Most cosmetic surgeries involve restrictions on normal activities, and particularly, on exercise.”

You can pretty well forget about catching some rays, too. It’s because many types of cosmetic surgery require you to stay out of the sun until you are fully healed. Moreover, some antibiotics react badly with sunlight.

Adds one London surgeon: “It’s not a good idea to have surgery and then go on a long-haul flight. The risk of deep vein thrombosis increases with a long flight.”

Further advises the ASAPS: “There are, of course, excellent surgeons in many countries, but it’s hard to evaluate training and credentials of surgeons outside the U.S. Unfortunately, there is no single international standard for quality in medicine.”

That also means an offshore facility may not offer the same safeguards for equipment, personnel and emergency procedures.

If your procedure runs into trouble when you get back home, U.S.-based physicians may not know what to do or how they can help because they usually will not know what specific techniques were used in the first operation.



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