Of all of the different types of medical tourism options, the one that seems to have captured the imagination of the media and the public alike is cosmetic surgery.
Breast enhancement, facelift surgery, eyelid surgery and rhinoplasty are among the procedures most commonly performed for medical tourists, along with non-surgical procedures such as Botox injections. But there are also many less-famous procedures, such as arm lift surgery, chin reduction and muscle implants that patients opt to get overseas.
Because cosmetic surgery is generally purely elective surgery, medical insurance does not cover it, and those countries with a national health service are unlikely to subsidize it, especially in the current financial climate, cosmetic surgery procedures are more likely to be sought abroad.
Every year, a great many people travel abroad from all over the world, in search of more affordable cosmetic surgery prices. Appropriate destinations for cosmetic surgery overseas depend on where the patient lives, so while a US resident will be more likely to choose surgery in South and Central America, medical tourists from Europe will find Eastern Europe or Turkey is often more appropriate, due their relative proximity.
Cosmetic surgery performed abroad often gets more than its fair share of criticism, especially from clinics in the wealthier countries, where the prices for cosmetic surgery are higher. It is claimed that the standards of surgery and care are likely to be lower, and that patients traveling abroad are making a false economy, and are potentially putting their health and lives at great risk.
On the other hand, overseas plastic surgery clinics can often market themselves quite aggressively, portraying themselves, and surgery abroad in general, as altogether the best option for the patient.
As is often the case, the truth lies somewhere in between!
Once you look past the vested interests of the clinics at home and abroad, and past the media’s need to sensationalize, it is easy to see that cosmetic surgery abroad, and cosmetic surgery in the US, do not differ so greatly. A patient can travel to Brasil, and get treatment from a surgeon who trained in the US, has equivalent experience and qualifications, and, yes, is very much cheaper.
The critical point is that wherever you get aesthetic surgery, as a patient you need to research the clinic and the surgeon, to check their reputation, skills, and to find any evidence of below average patient satisfaction.
What all countries do have in common is that in addition to having some highly-skilled and qualified aesthetic surgeons, they will also have their fair share of less-reputable, and even illegal clinics.
If you do make a point of choosing a cosmetic surgery clinic abroad with the correct level of due diligence, the reality is that there are some huge savings to be made. Brazil, Panama, Costa Rica and Mexico all have some excellent clinics and surgeons, yet the cost of treatment is frequently as low as just one third of the price you might expect to pay in the US.
Why so much cheaper for cosmetic surgery abroad?
A mistake many people make is to expect a direct correlation between price and quality. Treatment in the US costs more, so therefore people assume is follows that the treatment is of a higher quality. However, the reality is that there are a number of factors that contribute to the price of surgery.
The cost of living, and what domestic patients can afford to pay, plays a definite part in how plastic surgery is priced. Other factors are infrastructure costs, the salaries paid to the surgeon and other staff at the clinic, business taxes, and so on. In the same way that it is far more expensive to produce electrical goods in the US than it is, say, in the Far East, we should not make the assumption that price alone dictates quality.