Cosmetic Surgery Vacations: Beyond the Sales Pitch

Ever thought about taking a "cosmetic surgery vacation"? Just imagine, while you're getting your face lifted or your tummy tucked, you could be having a glorious time in some exotic, out-of-the-way location -- right? The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), the nation's leading organization of board-certified plastic surgeons specializing in cosmetic surgery, recommends against it. Here are some reasons why you may want to think twice, especially about traveling abroad for your cosmetic surgery:

  • You won't be ready for a round of golf. Most cosmetic surgeries involve restrictions on normal activities, and particularly exercise, for several days to weeks. So, while family members might enjoy the benefits of a resort destination while you undergo surgery, just remember that most vacation-type activities will be off-limits for you.
  • Sun bathing is taboo. If your idea is to recover from surgery lounging by the pool, remember that many types of cosmetic surgery require you to stay out of the sun until you are fully healed. Even then, you will likely be advised to protect yourself with sun block, sunglasses and a broad-brimmed hat.
  • Your doctor's credentials may not be what you think they are. Although there are excellent surgeons in many countries, it is often difficult to evaluate the training and credentials of surgeons outside the United States. Training and credentials vary, and there is no single international standard for quality such as, in the U.S., certification by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.
  • The surgical facility may not offer necessary safeguards. In the U.S., patients may choose to have surgery in an accredited facility that meets accepted safety standards for equipment, personnel and emergency procedures. Many facilities outside the U.S., or those within this country that are not accredited, may fail to meet even minimum safety standards.
  • Necessary follow-up care may be unavailable. Cosmetic surgery patients need to be seen by their surgeon at various intervals following the operation. Initial visits are to determine that recovery is progressing as expected, and later visits are to evaluate long-term results. If your surgeon is hundreds or thousands of miles away, there is no such continuing relationship. If for some reason you decide to have cosmetic surgery away from home, make sure that your surgeon has a professional colleague nearer to where you live who has agreed to see you for any necessary follow-up care.
  • Post-surgical problems are not easily handled. Serious problems are rare when cosmetic surgery is performed by a qualified, board-certified plastic surgeon. However, the results of cosmetic surgery are never 100 percent predictable. Problems, most often minor, which require surgical revisions or other treatment are always a possibility. In such instances, it is important that your surgeon is accessible. Patients who believe they can have surgery abroad and then, if necessary, find a surgeon close to home to handle any problems may find it tougher than they think. Most doctors are reluctant to handle problems, even minor ones, of surgeries they did not perform, particularly if they are unsure of what specific techniques were used in the initial operation.

Many qualified and reputable plastic surgeons arrange pleasant after-care accommodations, complete with private duty nursing, for their cosmetic surgery patients. This can make the recovery process easier and more enjoyable, whether patients live locally or come from out of town. However, promises of turning cosmetic surgery into a fun-filled vacation should be regarded with skepticism and caution.

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