Medical tourism to developing countries for plastic surgery can cause serious complications, according to a study in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.
“We were inspired to undertake the study by the large number of patients we were seeing in our emergency department after having surgery outside the United States,” says co-author Dennis Orgill, M.D., Ph.D., medical director of the Wound Care Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
The retrospective patient evaluation identified 78 patients, with a mean age of 43, who were treated at the institution over a 7-year period for serious complications incurred from elective surgery abroad.
The most popular destination country was the Dominican Republic, representing 59 patients, followed by Colombia with 6 patients.
The authors note that the Dominican Republic is the third most popular country of origin for Boston’s foreign-born population.
A total of 18 patients originally underwent multiple procedures in one operative setting.
Complications from abdominoplasty were seen in 35 patients, followed by breast augmentation in 25 patients and foreign body injections in 15 patients.
Complications for all foreign countries combined included surgical-site infections (14 patients), pain (14 patients) and wound healing (12 patients).
Surgical-site infections included infection from multi-drug resistant bacteria, whereas eight patients required the removal of damaged tissue or foreign objects from their wound site over a series of office visits.
Dr. Orgill tells The Aesthetic Channel that he was surprised, despite having suffered complications, that four patients admitted to returning to their original surgeon abroad for a second surgical procedure.
Dr. Orgill says patients need to be cautious when choosing to travel outside of the U.S. for elective plastic surgery because the safety and regulatory systems that protect patients at home are often lacking abroad.
Overall, 86% of patients (67 patients) relied on their medical insurance to pay for their follow-up care or manage their complications, with Massachusetts Medicaid (48 patients) being the most common type of health insurance coverage.
“Hopefully, these types of published articles will incentivize better accreditation of both plastic surgeons and facilities abroad,” Dr. Orgill says.