Medical tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry. Many who seek to save money on plastic surgery sign up for excursions abroad where they believe they can have high-quality cosmetic procedures while on vacation. Some are happy with their results. But a substantial number experience complications – some severe – after their surgery or once they’ve returned home. They didn’t realize that there are highly qualified and experienced plastic and facial plastic surgeons here in the US that perform outstanding surgical procedures at affordable prices. That is particularly true of facelift procedures in Inland Empire, near Los Angeles, California where I practice.
Editor’s Note: Dr. Brian Machida is a double board-certified facial plastic surgeon who practices in Ontario, CA, part of California’s Inland Empire. He has an exceptional level of experience and taught for years at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine. So far in his career, Dr. Machida has performed nearly 4,000 facelifts.
We’ve all heard the expression, “You get what you pay for.” That is particularly true in plastic surgery. However, there are methods that experienced, board-certified plastic and facial plastic surgeon use to lower patient costs while providing great results and actually increasing safety. In this article, I’ll focus on what I do to help my patients look younger and naturally more attractive while cutting costs, particularly with facelifts, at my practice in Inland Empire, CA. These methods allow me to offer patients Beverly Hills results at roughly 50% of the Beverly Hills cost.
Why have a facelift in Inland Empire or Cleveland rather than Mexico or the Dominican Republic?
Plastic surgery in the United States, Canada and Great Britain is normally quite safe. I’m not picking on Mexico and the Dominican Republic, but cosmetic surgery in those countries has been in the news recently. CBS, ABC and Fox News all reported on a Texas woman who died from serious complications resulting from anesthesia administered during plastic surgery in Mexico.
In addition, a group of physicians including Dr. Dennis Orgill, Medical Director of the Wound Care Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston conducted a study on complications arising from plastic surgery abroad. Dr. Orgill was particularly familiar with 78 patients who were treated at his hospital after returning home from ‘plastic surgery vacations.’ Of those, 48 were on Medicaid, which means that treatment for their complications was paid for by US taxpayers.
59 of the patients had their surgery in the Dominican Republic. They came to Brigham and Women’s Hospital with post-surgical complications ranging from surgical-site infections, and pain to wound-healing issues. Dr. Orgill and colleagues’ article in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (April, 2018) states:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. State Department have issued numerous alerts to U.S. citizens warning of travel to the Dominican Republic, in particular, to undergo plastic surgery. They note a high incidence of complications, rare types of infections, and high rates of death associated with plastic surgery procedures.
Why do people have plastic surgery in countries where they would hesitate to drink the water? They want to save money. Why does cosmetic surgery, like facelift, liposuction and other procedures cost less in those countries? Because laws protecting patients from malpractice often favor doctors and hospitals. This lowers insurance premiums. In addition, mandatory medical standards found in many industrialized nations are less stringent in developing countries. Patients who would receive needed post-operative care in the US are often left on their own abroad.
The result is lower prices to attract new patients, a high volume of surgeries, and lots of money for some doctors. But as we’ve seen, patients themselves and US taxpayers often pay the price in the end.
A number of my colleagues and I have found ways to lower costs without compromising patient safety. We can offer patients attractive, natural-looking results at affordable prices. While I can’t speak for other doctors, here’s how I’ve been able to lower costs:
How to lower facelift costs and improve patient safety
As brought out in “The Safest Facelift Provides Great, Natural-Looking Results,” a growing number of facial plastic surgeons use safer local anesthesia, as I do for all procedures including facelift surgery at my Inland Empire practice. This eliminates the costs of additional equipment and office requirements for general anesthesia plus an RN to monitor patient recovery. With local anesthesia plus oral sedation, patients readily wake up when prompted after their procedures.
Also, by avoiding the use of the popular I.V. anesthetic Propofol or similar agents, like-minded surgeons and I increase safety and eliminate the need for an anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist. It is not safe to administer Propofol without a trained anesthesia professional in the operating area to closely monitor the patient’s vital signs. Avoiding Propofol further eliminates this need and reduces patient costs.
- I’m part of a group of plastic and facial plastic surgeons who worked for a large national cosmetic facial surgery practice. While most plastic surgeons, who operate on the whole body, average 1-2 facelifts per month, many of us were doing that many facelifts every day. This unusual level of experience permits us to work comfortably under the 1.5 to 2.5 hour time constraints required for safer local anesthesia.
This provides our patients with an exceptional level of safety. But look what it does to patient costs for example, at my practice, STC Plastic Surgery in Ontario, Inland Empire, California:
- Facelift in Beverly Hills or Newport Beach, CA $14,000
- Facelift by traditional Inland Empire plastic surgeons $ 9,500 CONTACT Dr. Machida Inland Empire, CA
- Facelift at STC Plastic Surgery (my practice) $ 7,500
In some parts of the country where office space rates are lower, your costs could be even lower. The attractive, natural-looking results we get last just as long as facelifts done in Beverly Hills or Newport Beach. Our patients wake up more easily after surgery and go home a little sooner than theirs. They’re just as happy when they see themselves in the mirror.
I believe the day may come when all facial plastic surgery is done with the local anesthetic and oral sedation method my colleagues and I use now. It permits us to offer facelifts in Inland Empire and across the country that cost substantially less than what many people expect to pay. And even if they’re more expensive than they are in Mexico, the Dominican Republic and other third-world countries, isn’t a lot more safety worth a little more money?