COSMETIC SURGERY ABROAD
Thanks to cheaper travel and heavy advertising campaigns by clinics abroad, the chance to have procedures performed in another country is becoming more popular. There’s even a name for it: ‘cosmetic surgery tourism’. Although it works out well for some people, we have a few concerns which you might take into account. Please read our FAQs before deciding whether it’s for you:
1. Will I have more problems if I have my operation performed in another country?
All operations carry risks, and these can happen either abroad or at home. If you do choose to travel to another country, make sure the clinic has someone in the UK who will see you for aftercare and any problem solving – make sure this is a proper specialist, not just a nurse or GP. You might have to pay extra for this, or you’ll have to budget for flying back to that country for aftercare to take into account, plus the extra days off work, of course. BAPRAS recommends that you see the surgeon who performed the operation, nobody else.
2. Will the actual journey cause any problems?
The risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT or blood clot in a vein) is greatly increased both after surgery and during a flight, especially if it’s long-haul. If you are unfortunate enough to have a DVT, then you are more likely to have a pulmonary embolism, which can be fatal. We advise that you wait at least 5-7 days before flying home if you’ve had breast surgery or liposuction, and 7-10 days after a facial cosmetic operations or tummy tuck.
3. How can I avoid getting DVT on the flight?
Avoid alcohol, drink lots of water instead and walk around the cabin as much as possible. Unfortunately, it is possible for a blood clot to start forming during your operation. Ask your surgeon about this before you make up your mind to go overseas for your operation.
4. Is there any way I can check the surgeons credentials in another country?
Although there are some very well qualified cosmetic surgeons practising abroad, it can be difficult to check them out properly. (In the UK, we have a special register at the GMC, plus officially recognised bodies such as BAPRAS.) Ask your surgeon about his training and qualifications – if he’s bona fide, he will welcome your questions.
5. Can I make sure the clinic is clean and safe?
Reports back suggest that some clinics are perfectly hygienic and some are not. Find out what regulating body they belong to, what its infection record is like, and whether they have any emergency back-up services on site, should something go wrong. (In the UK, all private hospitals are subject to regular rigorous inspections by the Healthcare Commission.)
6. Why is it sometimes less expensive to have an operation abroad than in the UK?
More often than not, a clinic abroad cannot offer much aftercare once you’ve had your operation, if any. Added to this, the standard of living may well be lower and therefore inexpensive staff and less costly medical supplies help to keep costs down. (In the UK, we include huge malpractice indemnity insurances in case of problems in our costs; we also include all your aftercare, and heavily regulated and regular healthcare inspections for the surgeons and clinics, which all adds up. Better safe than sorry!)
7. Is it always cheaper to have your surgery in another country?
It may well look that way, but once you realise that most holiday travel insurance doesn’t cover the cost of extra flights to and from in case of complications, or your taking more time off work, it all starts to add up. The NHS will only cover life-threatening difficulties – all other medical problems are your responsibility and will probably have to be dealt with by a private clinic.
8. The clinic is offering a holiday during the recovery period. Is this a good idea?
Don’t forget that you are about to undergo a serious operation, after which you mustn’t drink alcohol, sunbathe, or do any water sports - including swimming. What kind of holiday is that?! If you do decide to go to another country, we suggest that you take a look round before you have the surgery.
9. Does my holiday insurance cover everything if I choose to go abroad for my operation?
Probably not. We suggest that you talk to your insurer before you choose this option, as private emergency healthcare when you come back to the UK could add up to thousands of pounds.
10. Is it too late to change my mind if I don’t like the look of the clinic when I get there?
Discuss this with the clinic before you travel. It’s quite normal to want to back out if you are in unfamiliar surroundings, and don’t understand what people are saying to you.
11. Will the NHS take care of any medical complications I may have when I get home?
It’s unlikely, as they will only help if your condition is life-threatening. If you have a problem, the person who performed your surgery should correct it.
CHECKLIST FOR SURGERY ABROAD
Don’t sign on the dotted line until you have all the answers to these questions:
• How experienced is the surgeon?
• How long has he/she been practising?
• How many times have they performed the operation I want to have?
• What qualification does he/she have?
• Does he/she belong to any professional bodies?
• Who else is part of the surgical team?
• What are the risks associated with this operation?
• How frequently does this operation go wrong?
• Can I meet the surgeon in the UK before travelling, at least once?
• Is the surgeon’s English good enough for me to understand what’s at stake?
• Can I speak to someone who has had surgery here already?
• Can I see some ‘Before and After’ photos?
• What facilities does the clinic have?
• What emergency back-up does the clinic have?
• Is there a doctor at the clinic 24/7?
• Is there an Intensive Care or High Dependency Unit on the premises?
• What aftercare is offered?
• What happens if I have complications once I have returned to the UK?
• Would I have to fly back out at my own expense?
• Will I be covered by my travel insurance?
• What is the name of the clinic’s regulating body, if any?
• Do the clinic and surgeon have any medical insurance/indemnity policies?
• Have I checked the small print for any hidden extra costs?