Guidelines for Cosmetic Surgery Tourism

A growing number of medical tourists are availing of cosmetic surgery when they go on vacation to the Philippines. Many of them are “balikbayan” Filipino immigrants or overseas workers visiting relatives and friends. They often regard cosmetic surgery as a last-minute item on their shopping list, something which can be done during the last few days of their vacation. If a patient is seriously considering cosmetic surgery, the vacation should be planned such that enough time is allotted for the following: pre-operative consultation (1 day), pre-operative laboratory work-up (1 day), actual surgery date (1 day) and time for post-operative recovery (1 to 2 weeks). The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) has issued an advisory that before flying, a patient should wait for five to seven days after body procedures such as liposuction and breast augmentation, and seven to 10 days after cosmetic procedures of the face including facelifts, eyelid surgery, nose jobs, and laser treatments.

If a patient has limited vacation time, having the pre-operative laboratory work up (blood tests, electrocardiogram, and chest x-ray) done prior to their vacation will facilitate scheduling of the surgery. A patient with medical insurance coverage may be entitled to a laboratory work up as part of their annual physical examination package.

Patients with risk factors such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease will also need to consult their primary care doctor, HMO physician, cardiologist, or internist, and must secure a written clearance that they are physically fit to undergo the contemplated cosmetic surgery procedure.

Once all these necessary pre-operative precautions are undertaken, the next step is to choose a qualified plastic surgeon. Patients will be taking unnecessary risks if they choose unqualified doctors to do their cosmetic surgery. Patients should also make sure that their operation will be performed in a facility that is well-equipped.
In recent years, it has been noted by the international media that the high cost of cosmetic surgery in the U.S.A., Europe and Australia has resulted in the price-driven phenomenon known as cosmetic surgery tourism. Since medical insurance does not cover the cost of cosmetic surgery and patients have to pay out-of-pocket, price has become a major factor in promoting cosmetic surgery tourism. Thus patients from First World countries have chosen the alternative of flying to countries where cosmetic surgery is more affordable.

The growth of cosmetic surgery tourism is a sign of international recognition of the capabilities of plastic surgeons who have chosen to live and work in “Second or Third World” countries.

A cursory Internet search will show entire cosmetic surgery “vacation packages” that cost less than single cosmetic surgery procedures done in the U.S.A. Many companies are offering cosmetic surgery vacation packages which generally include hospital, hotel or resort accommodations together with the cosmetic surgery. However, it must be pointed out that vacation-related activities should be avoided after surgery. Patients should avoid sun exposure, walking tours, bus tours, alcohol-intake, smoking or exposure to second-hand smoke, exercise, and water activities (swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, water skiing, jet-skiing, parasailing, etc.). To help ensure optimal results and to limit risks and complications, patients should not treat cosmetic surgery lightly and must observe all the necessary precautions during both pre-operative and post-operative periods.

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