Medical Tourism Comes With Serious Risks, Plastic Surgeon Warns

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Source: Dr. Darren Smith

Jun. 6 2023, Published 3:51 p.m. ET

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More Americans are engaging in medical tourism, traveling outside the U.S. for healthcare procedures, but it can come with serious risks.

People commonly travel internationally for cosmetic surgery, as well as dental care, fertility treatments and organ transplants, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Patients often do it to save money, though sometimes they want procedures not approved in the U.S.

"Medical tourism can be a good way to find doctors that specialize in treatments that may not be available in your immediate area,” said board certified plastic surgeon Dr. Darren Smith. “We see patients from around the world for some of our advanced face and body procedures, for example.”

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But problems can arise when doctors abroad aren’t held to the same standards of safety as U.S. doctors, Smith said.

“Within the United States, patients can feel confident in their care when they are seeing a plastic surgeon board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. When seeking care outside the U.S., it's best to make sure your surgeon is certified by that country's governing body,” Smith said.

"Problems are most likely to occur when patients are traveling to save money. While prices may be higher at home, these prices often reflect higher standards of safety and training,” Smith said. “While there are certainly exceptions to this rule, it is critical to do your research. It is less expensive (and safer!) to have your procedure done right the first time."

Patients must also remember to plan for recovery time and follow-up care.

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Source: Dr. Darren Smith
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“Patients traveling for plastic surgery should ensure they have a safe, comfortable environment for their immediate post-operative recovery,” Smith said. “It's also important to plan on an adequate amount of time before leaving your surgeon's immediate proximity.”

The New York City-based surgeon said that depending on the procedure, his international patients “either spend the time with a member of our nursing team in our private recovery suite in our Ritz Tower offices or stay at one of our preferred hotels, again with nursing staff.”

After recovering, “be certain that there is follow-up care in place for both routine matters and potential complications when you return,” Smith said. “We have a network of colleagues around the globe we can call on to make sure our international patients have a skilled plastic surgeon at the ready in the unlikely event the need should arise.”


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