Do Your Homework Before Going Abroad For Surgery

A recent Huffington Post story by Dr Michael Yaremchuk, Chief of Craniofacial Surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital, addressed the growing trend of medical tourism—aka, traveling across international borders for medical procedures.

Medical tourism is an example of both the “best and the worst of our global society,” as Dr. Yaremchuk eloquently points out. Dr. Yaremchuk starts off with an example of purchasing a brand new Cadillac. If the consumer finds two Cadillacs that are equal in terms of features, make and model, but one is in Providence and the other in New Hampshire, price will be the factor that drives the final purchase decision.

Such is not the case for plastic surgery. When “shopping” for plastic surgery, you must realize that you are also purchasing the training, expertise, experience and skillset of the plastic surgeon. Little data on the quality and results of plastic surgery on patients leaving the US for procedures exists.

However, Dr. Yaremchuk sites a specific example based on a research study from the Infectious Diseases Society of America where 8 cases of Mycobacterium abscessus from liposuction performed in the Dominican Republic were reported during a two-year period. He directly compares this with statistics from Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York where 230,000 liposocution procedures took place and no incidences of Mycobacterium abscessus infection were reported. It is hard to say that this a compelling enough example to stay stateside for a procedure and that doesn’t seem to be the point that the article intended.

But the point that does come across is that if you are considering going abroad for any kind of procedure, do your homework. Research, research and did I mention research? Whether seeking treatment in the US or abroad, make sure your research process begins with confirming that your prospective surgeon is a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) or the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS). Both the ASPS and the ASAPS will at least assure you that the doctor has an approved level of training and ethics. The ISAPS, which is still in development, is a program aimed at setting certification standards and recognizing doctor competency across the world. These resources are a good place to start. It’s important to remember the old adage “Buyer Beware.”

After all, an adage becomes just that for a reason.