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Are you aware of the risks if you choose to have cosmetic surgery abroad?

Following the horror stories that have appeared in the media in recent weeks, Effie Katerinaki, Consultant Plastic Surgeon, looks at the risks associated with having cosmetic surgery abroad.

Are you aware of the risks if you choose to have cosmetic surgery abroad?

We often read in the news about patients who opt to travel abroad for cosmetic surgery, only to return to the UK and be faced with complications after the procedure. Inevitably, they cannot easily be seen by clinic where they had the surgery; therefore they have to seek help from their GP or local NHS hospital.

At the time, people are often enticed abroad by the perceived value for money package combining cheaper surgery prices (in comparison to UK cosmetic surgery fees) with a luxury stay in a beautiful hotel. What they fail to consider however, is the implications if something goes wrong after they’ve had their surgery.

It is very important to remember that, in the majority of cases, and no matter how well the surgery has gone, the surgeons practicing abroad are not accountable to the General Medical Council (GMC) who regulate all doctors practicing in UK and protect their patients.

There are also some very important practical safety issues that you should consider when travelling abroad for surgery:
(1) Who will be responsible for the immediate follow-up?
(2) Who can you contact and see in the event of a post-operative complication, even a minor wound infection or wound breakdown?
(3) What if regular dressings or a course of antibiotics are required?
(4) Is there an arrangement for a routine follow-up a few weeks (or a few months) following surgery, to see your surgeon, and ask any questions you may have or discuss revision surgery, if you feel it is required?
(5) Would the cost of all the above be included in the initial package of care you agreed to (and paid for)?

In summary, extreme caution is required and all the right questions need to be asked and clearly answered before deciding to travel abroad for any type of surgery, even more so for surgery that alters your appearance. The results and consequences of cosmetic surgery are long-lasting, often irreversible, and you need to be able to easily contact the surgeon and clinic who treated you when and if required, even when everything has gone smoothly.

You can find more information about travelling abroad for cosmetic surgery on the BAPRAS website. BAPRAS, The British Association of Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons, is the official body that regulates plastic surgeons in UK.

Mrs Effie Katerinaki is a Consultant Cosmetic, Plastic and Aesthetic Surgeon at The Westbourne Centre. She is a member of the British Association of Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons and is on the GMC Specialist Register for Plastic Surgery.

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