Sun, surf, and surgery at the same time. Medical tourism may sound like an adventure. But plastic surgery experts say tread carefully. The few hundred dollars of savings by seeking out offshore procedures can cost you big bucks down the line (and even your life).

Dr. Dare V. Ajibade and Dr. Chukwuemeka Onyewu at Jamachi Plastic Surgery in Silver Spring, MD, are the go-to plastic surgeons for correcting botched procedures performed abroad. They share why people should think twice about heading overseas for plastic and cosmetic surgery:

  • Poor Government Oversight: Some countries lack proper and consistent regulations governing plastic and cosmetic surgery, and sometimes less rigorous regulation and educational standards result in doctors receiving certification for procedures they are actually unqualified to perform.
  • Deceptive Pricing: Cheaper surgery is often less safe. In fact, below-average pricing can be a red flag that the practitioner is potentially unscrupulous. A patient might get quoted one price, but that price can drastically change when they arrive for their procedure. (By contrast, you can finance the surgery in the U.S. and well trained surgeons and government-regulated doctors perform legitimate procedures.)
  • In and Out: Often, you don’t meet the surgeon until the day of the procedure and frequently no recourse if complications arise, which is not unusual with subpar surgeries.
  • Lacking Follow-Up Care: After undergoing a medical procedure abroad, patients may face challenges in receiving appropriate follow-up care upon returning home. This lack of continuity in care can increase the risk of complications or post-operative issues.
  • Extra Costs: People don’t take into account the price of their flight and hotel when booking their “cheaper” surgery. These often end up being a lot more stress, delayed care across borders, and accumulated costs that are not accounted for up front. And what happens if you need prolonged or additional care?
  • Infection Control and Safety: In some countries, there might be a higher risk of healthcare-associated infections. This is due to inadequate infection control practices and hygiene standards.
  • Unintended Consequences: Extensive and permanent scarring. Delayed care across borders. Prolonged after-care. Unexpected accumulated costs. These are all high-probability risks that many medical tourists fail to consider before crossing the border.
  • Complications Can Be Fatal: A trip to an unqualified plastic surgeon can even end up in a hospital emergency room back home, where a trauma surgeon not trained in plastic and cosmetic procedures has to perform urgent surgery to save your life. While that might prevent you from dying, your cosmetic result may be ruined, and you will have squandered your investment in international travel. Moreover, many U.S. trauma/ER surgeons don’t want to be held liable for complications related to a medical-tourism surgery.
  • Legal Recourse: If something goes wrong during a medical procedure abroad, seeking legal recourse can be challenging due to differing legal systems and medical malpractice laws in other countries.