More cosmetic surgical procedures are performed in the United States than any other country, but a popular trend is to have cosmetic surgery in a different country. (Learn More)
Medical tourism is the practice of going outside the country to have a medical procedure performed. (Learn More) The cost savings associated with having cosmetic surgery done outside the United States can be significant. (Learn More)
Several different countries are becoming popular spots for cosmetic surgical procedures. (Learn More) The same types of procedures that are done in the U.S. can be performed in other countries. (Learn More)
Before planning your trip for a cosmetic procedure, do your research. (Learn More)
Getting Cosmetic Surgical Procedures Outside the United States
More cosmetic surgery operations are performed in the United States than in any other country, but several other countries are beginning to attract Americans who are interested in cosmetic procedures.
Getting cosmetic surgery outside the United States is significantly less expensive, but as with any type of surgery, you may experience complications following your operation. These risks could be compounded if you are outside the U.S.
Medical tourism refers to the practice of going out of your home country to have a surgical procedure or other medical procedure performed. You intentionally leave your country to have surgery; you do not have surgery outside your home country because you had an emergency while on vacation.
The primary motivation for medical tourism is a significantly reduced cost compared to prices in the United States. The quality of services can vary, as they do in the United States. If the medical facility is licensed and accredited, especially by an international organization or one centered in the United States, you can expect to receive a similar quality of services as in America.
How Much Can I Save?
The answer depends on what procedure you are having done and what country you are going to.
MedicalTourism.com lists 2019 comparative prices for the United States and other countries for various medical procedures, including cosmetic surgical procedures. You can view their chart to get an idea of how much you will save on a specific procedure if you get it done in a different country.
Remember that prices in other countries may also vary widely depending on the specific facility and physician.
The Most Popular Foreign Countries for Cosmetic Surgery
The International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS), an international organization of board-certified plastic surgeons, reports that the following are the most popular countries outside of the United States for cosmetic procedures (in order of popularity):
What Procedures Are Performed Most Often Outside the U.S.?
According to ISAPS, women have more cosmetic surgical procedures than men. The most popular procedure performed both in the U.S. and abroad is breast augmentation.
These procedures are also popular outside the United States:
- Eyelid surgery
- Nose jobs (rhinoplasty)
- Tummy tucks (abdominoplasty)
Nearly any cosmetic procedure can be performed outside the U.S.
Advantages of Medical Tourism
If you make the appropriate plans and do your homework before you travel, there are some benefits to having cosmetic surgery performed in a different country.
- Most insurance companies do not cover the cost of plastic surgery. Getting surgery in a different country can save you 30 to 80 percent of the cost you might incur in the United States.
- Even if you can get your insurance to cover a procedure, the out-of-pocket costs that you will incur in a different country are significantly lower than those in the United States.
- You may find that you have more privacy after your surgery.
- Health care has improved in other countries due to higher standards of care globally. Many of the surgeons who work in different countries are trained in the United States or other areas with a similar quality of medical training like the United Kingdom.
- With organizations like ISAPS certifying physicians internationally and providing referrals you can trust, the quality of service you receive in a different country is often equivalent to what you get at home. You can also look for other certifications like those from the Joint Commission International.
- If you are up to it and have planned everything correctly, you might be able to enjoy a vacation with sightseeing before or after your procedure, allowing you to combine a vacation with your operation.
Disadvantages of Medical Tourism
Traveling to a different country to have a surgical procedure comes with some additional risks.
- There is an increased risk to develop blood clots if you fly too soon after surgery. Make sure you have plenty of recuperation time. When you get on the plane to travel home, you must be able to walk around the plane frequently.
- In some foreign countries, the quality of the medications used is much poorer than in America, and some medications may even be counterfeit. The best way to avoid this problem is to ask the American Embassy to help you find a legitimate pharmacy in the country to purchase prescriptions.
- Never buy medications online, from street vendors, or from individuals who are not certified by the proper organizations.
- Make sure you can communicate with your nurses, physicians, and the other staff members who care for you. Language barriers can result in numerous complications. If possible, take someone with you who speaks the language or hire a translator.
- Because you most likely would be paying out of pocket for your cosmetic procedure, understand the exchange rate for the currency you are going to be using. Make sure you can access your funds to pay for the procedure.
- The risk for developing an infection may be higher in a different country. Discuss this possibility and how to address it with the surgical center.
A study in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery found that infection, healing, continued pain, and the need to be hospitalized after returning home were the most common problems that occurred after someone went to a different country for surgery.
Make sure you can get treatment from your primary care physician when you get home if any issues come up.
Also, ensure you have enough funds for a return trip to the doctor who performed the procedure. Hopefully, this won’t be necessary, but you should be prepared.
What Should I Do Next?
Before you go, look at the ISAPS website to determine what surgeons would be best for you in the country you are going to. Remember that this is an international organization of over 3,000 board-certified plastic surgeons in over 100 countries. ISAPS ensures that its members have extensive training, are recognized nationally and internationally as plastic surgeons, have a staff that can speak English, and are accredited.
You might also want to check out the Patients Beyond Borders website. They feature a booklet that addresses many questions about having any type of surgery in a different country.
Finally, make sure you talk to your prospective surgeon beforehand. Many surgical facilities allow you to consult with your surgeon via Skype or another video conferencing service. This can help to ensure that your surgeon is a good fit for your situation.
What Is Medical Tourism? (2019). News-medical.net.
Compare Prices. (2019). MedicalTourism.com.
Demand for Cosmetic Surgery Procedures Around the World Continues to Skyrocket -USA, Brazil, Japan, Italy, and Mexico ranked in the Top Five Countries. (June 2017). International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.
Facts About the Joint Commission International. (December 2018). Joint Commission International.
Plastic Surgery Complications from Medical Tourism Treated in a U.S. Academic Medical Center. (April 2018). Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.
Patients Beyond Borders. (2011). Patients Beyond Borders.