Facelift Abroad – Are the Savings Worth the Risks?

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Plastic surgery overseas may offer big savings, but you could be gambling with your health. Could it end up costing you more?

You’ve probably seen the ads: “Rhinoplasty in Turkey,” “Facelift in Mexico – Save 50%,” “Plastic Surgery Vacation – All Inclusive.”  As inflation affects more and more people, some start to wonder if they can really get the younger, more attractive look they want for less by having their facelift abroad.  There’s no doubt that there are good plastic and facial plastic surgeons outside of the US.  Many of these are in England, Western Europe, Canada, and Japan – places known for their high standards of medical care.  But when it comes to less-expensive plastic surgery, facelifts for less are found in third world countries.  These nations are not generally known for outstanding medical care.  You can save money by having your facelift overseas in one of these locations.  But are the savings worth the risks?

Facelift Overseas:  Are medical standards the same everywhere?

Mini Facelift procedure courtesy of Dr. Amir Karam

Good healing after a facelift is just as important as a high-quality surgical procedure if you’re truly going to look younger and more attractive.  If fact, many of the facelift nightmares you see in the media result, not from bad procedures, but from poor healing.

Here in the U.S., we’re accustomed to high standards of medical care.  If someone gets facial plastic surgery, for instance, they expect their surgeon to make sure they’re healing properly and help them avoid problems.  Surgeons are legally required to treat their patient to recovery.  You know that if something doesn’t turn out right, you can get additional treatment so that you’ll get the great results you want and avoid the kind you don’t.

Don’t expect much follow-up care if you get a facelift abroad.  Surgeons who are in high demand for low-cost procedures may be far too busy to provide the level of post-procedure attention you’d receive in America.  There is just not enough time and money available to support good aftercare.  And, in most cases you’ll only be in the country for a week or two at the most.

If you’re not satisfied with your facelift abroad, it can be very hard to get surgery to fix the problem.  Laws in many of these countries favor the surgeon and the hospital, not the patient.  You may well find there’s little or no recourse for unsatisfactory results.  If you’re able to get a revision procedure to fix a problem, you’ll often have to pay as much for it as you did for the original surgery.

Follow-up with your surgeon is important. Will you get it overseas?

Can you get your facelift abroad and your aftercare back home?

If you can get care at home following a facelift overseas, it’s probably going to be quite expensive.  By American legal standards, any surgeon who works on your face or neck will inherit any problems you have.  If you were getting a revision of a procedure you had here at home, your surgeon’s fee will cover the additional risk factor.  But few good surgeons want to take legal ownership of problems caused by a surgeon who performed your facelift overseas.  There’s no telling what kind of liabilities they could be taking on.

If you experience bleeding, a hematoma, or infection – not unexpected in countries where they advise you, “Don’t drink the water” – you’ll probably have to visit the ER.  There you will likely be treated by a general surgeon, not a plastic or facial plastic surgeon.  General surgeons are trained in how to improve your health, not your looks.

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Problems with plastic surgery overseas could lead to big medical bills at home

Will your health insurance cover that ER treatment?  With most health coverage, few if any cosmetic procedures IN NETWORK are covered.  Getting a low-cost facelift abroad, you were far “out of network.”  Your coverage may not extend to ER visits to treat an infection, bleeding or a hematoma judged to be the result of your discount procedure.  Treatment in the ER can cost $10,000 or more.  What will one or more ER visits cost you?

Are you likely to need additional care after plastic surgery overseas?

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US surgeons use good procedures to protection you from infections. Will you be protected as well overseas?

It’s important to recognize that all may not go as planned during a pandemic that is not yet over in most countries.  As you can see in, “Is Plastic Surgery or a Facelift Safe During the COVID-19 Pandemic?” here in the U.S. surgeons, clinics, and hospitals have put strong measures in place to protect patients from infection.  But good infection protection is not available around the world.

A few years ago, 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.  Treatment for their complications was paid for by US taxpayers.

Fifty-nine of the patients had their plastic 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.

“There are plenty of bad actors out there, particularly in the border towns of Mexico,” Patients Beyond Borders CEO, Josef Woodman told Healthline, “but also in high-traffic leisure travel destinations known for cosmetic surgery, such as Dubai, Bangkok, and Istanbul.”

Traveling long-distance after having surgery can raise additional risks.  Sitting for hours on an airplane or in a car can increase the risk of blood clots in your legs (deep vein thrombosis) and in your lungs (pulmonary embolism).  You’ll need to plan to stay where you have your surgery for the number of days your surgeon tells you.  You can avoid all that by having your procedure in your own country. 

In life, you generally get what you pay for CONTACT Dr. Machida Inland Empire, CA 

While there may be people who pay a little money and get a great facelift, you probably recognize that is not the way things usually work.  The old saying, “You get what you pay for” generally holds true.  Good surgical care generates certain costs that cannot be avoided.  You cannot reduce costs beyond a certain point without sacrificing good quality care that assures your satisfaction.

However, as I pointed out in “How to Make a $24,000 Beverly Hills-Quality Facelift Cost Much Less,” there are good plastic and facial plastic surgeons who practice in less-expensive areas.  Some have found ways to give you outstanding results at a reasonable cost.

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Before and one week After Deep Plane Facelift by Dr. Brian Machida, MD, FACS. Dramatic improvement is seen while patient is healing.

Considering all the risks of having a facelift abroad, doesn’t it make more sense to do a little research to find a reasonably priced board-certified facial plastic surgeon or plastic surgeon who specializes in the face and neck?  I know of 100 or more highly experienced surgeons across the U.S. whose work rivals that of celebrity plastic surgeons but costs far less.  If you’re looking for a high-quality facelift at a reasonable rate in Inland Empire, California please come see me at STC Plastic Surgery in Ontario.

CONTACT Dr. Machida Inland Empire, CA 

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About Dr. Brian Machida, MD, FACS

Dr. Brian K. Machida, MD, FACS is a double board certified facial plastic surgeon. He has an exceptional level of experience, having performed ( read more )

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