I rarely, if ever read the advice column, Dear Abby. Seems like it’s been around since my grandparents’ days. This weekend however, I did read it and for those considering cosmetic surgery abroad, they should read it too.
Titled “Surgery abroad goes wrong with infection”, the letter writer details her long and difficult saga of the consequences of having traveled overseas to have cosmetic surgery. The writer, a mother of three, simply wanted to look better after child. She thought she did her research. She liked the web site with its beautiful photos. She really liked the promise that they had a “Zero percent infection rate.”
Two weeks after her return to home, pus pooled out of her abdomen. A local plastic surgeon rushed her to the Emergency Room and after 11 days in the hospital and numerous surgeries and a future of months of at home nursing and IV antibiotics, she could go home. The organism that caused the infection is one associated with poor sterilization techniques. The overseas doctor told the patient that she did not get it from him.
So after over $100,000 of expenses, and permanent scarring and pain, her word of warning is simple. Do not do it! And as Dear Abby commented, there is risk in any surgery but those risks and the consequences if you have them increase dramatically if you travel overseas.
Bottom line: Cosmetic surgery is not tourism! The term “medical tourism” makes it sound like a normal trip with a little cosmetic surgery tossed in. While those who do travel overseas for cosmetic procedures may have no problems, if they do, the problems are magnified and complicated immensely.
The one question Abby did not ask her, was it worth it?
Herluf Lund M.D., F.A.C.S.