Cosmetic surgery abroad

If you're considering cosmetic surgery abroad, do your research first.

'Standards and guidelines are not as strict everywhere. And standards are not necessarily as tightly controlled elsewhere,' Anthony Armstrong, consultant plastic surgeon

Cosmetic surgery abroad often costs less than in the UK, but make sure you weigh any potential savings against potential risks.

Both BAAPS (The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons) and BAPRAS (The British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons) have voiced concerns about patients having problems after cosmetic surgery procedures carried out abroad.

gThere are good plastic surgeons all over the world,h says Anthony Armstrong, a consultant plastic surgeon and chair of BAPRASfs clinical effectiveness committee.

gHowever, patients who seek cosmetic surgery overseas are often looking for a cheap deal. Standards and guidelines are not as strict everywhere. And standards are not necessarily as tightly controlled elsewhere.h

Is it safer to have cosmetic surgery in the UK or abroad?

No surgery is risk free, and complications can arise after surgery in the UK or abroad.

gIf complications arise after an operation carried out in the UK, it's the surgeonfs responsibility to provide follow-up treatment. It's part of their duty of care to their patient,h says?Armstrong.

When patients seek cosmetic treatment abroad, aftercare is not always straightforward. Some of the overseas clinics donft have someone in the UK that you can turn to if problems arise.

Beware of the holiday sell

Before deciding to have cosmetic surgery, you should have a realistic expectation of the outcome.

gOften, people find out about cosmetic surgery abroad through a website, and the idea is sold to them as a treatment plus a?holiday,h says Armstrong.

gSometimes therefs a meet-and-greet evening in London with sales people rather than the surgeon. People will part with money and go to a hospital theyfve never seen and a surgeon theyfve never met without any real understanding of what that surgeon can provide.

gIt's best to have two consultations with the surgeon who will treat you prior to any surgery. This?allows for a cooling-off period,h says?Armstrong.

gThe surgeon?has to make sure that?the patient fully understands what the procedure involves, the limitations of the procedure and any potential complications,h?he says. gThey should be able to show 'before and after' pictures of their work.h

Armstrong is also concerned that selling cosmetic surgery as part of a holiday package is misleading. Cosmetic surgery is a major undertaking. While it's possible to have a holiday before surgery, it's unrealistic to have one immediately after.

gWhen people are on holiday they often like to have a drink, lie in the sun or do something a bit more energetic. It is not advisable to do any of these things if you're recovering from surgery,h he says.?

Cosmetic surgery aftercare

Follow-up care is an important part of treatment. You need to consider where check-ups will take place.

When you make enquiries about your treatment, ask how complications would be handled and what would happen if you needed revision surgery after the original procedure. If there's a complication, consider how easily, and at what cost, you can travel back to the destination where the surgery was carried out.

How to minimise the risks

Much of the advice for patients considering cosmetic surgery is the same whether they choose to be treated in the UK or abroad.

Find out as much as you can about the cosmetic procedure

The first thing to think about is the treatment you're having. Research what it will involve in terms of consultations, the procedure itself and aftercare.

Choose the right cosmetic surgeon

The next thing to consider is who will carry out the treatment. gTo minimise the risks, the key thing is to find a registered and fully accredited plastic surgeon,h says Armstrong. For advice on how to choose a surgeon in the UK, see Choosing a surgeon.

Choosing a surgeon abroad is going to be much harder because you have to find out how doctors and clinics are regulated in your chosen country, and how standards are enforced. It may not be easy to find out if a surgeon overseas is a fully trained plastic surgeon because of differences in standards and qualifications.

Itfs also important to find out whether your surgeon abroad speaks English or another language you understand well enough. This is so that they can explain all the important issues related to your surgery or treatment, and so that they understand your concerns and questions.?

For more advice on how to do your research if youfre considering treatment overseas, see The risks of treatment abroad and Key questions to ask.

Consider what would happen if things were to go wrong

Establish what would happen if you were to have any problems with the treatment. What insurance arrangements does the clinic or doctor have, and will these cover you? What will your own travel insurance cover? Ordinary travel or holiday insurance will not cover you if something goes wrong during or after planned treatment abroad.

If you can't get satisfactory answers to all your questions, think carefully about whether to go ahead.

Page last reviewed: 03/12/2013

Next review due: 03/12/2015

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