Affordable flights, low-cost procedures, and foreign climes have made cosmetic tourism an attractive option in recent years. However, the inexpensiveness of foreign plastic surgeries often masks a dangerous environment, with chronic regulatory gaps and lack of patient aftercare. The growing popularity of cosmetic tourism has been accompanied by increasing rates of complications
and botched procedures.
In Australia, there has been a veritable explosion in overseas botched surgeries
. Australian tourists have been travelling to developing countries such as India, Malaysia, and Thailand for cheap plastic surgeries such as breast augmentation
. As a result, complications arising from botched overseas procedures have risen 38 percent in the last year. Here’s how these complications break down:
- 72% of botched overseas surgeries could not be corrected.
- 62% of patients suffered permanent disfigurements.
- Almost half could have experienced life-threatening complications.
- The average cost to attempt surgical repairs was nearly US$6000.
The Four Perils of Cosmetic Tourism
Why do travellers usually receive vaccinations before travelling abroad? It’s because certain diseases, including local strains of common diseases, can affect your body in serious ways. Patients recovering from surgery are risking their lives in foreign germ environments.
Many overseas clinics can offer low prices because they don’t face the same regulatory hurdles as their American counterparts. Will your procedure be performed by a fully qualified doctor? For many elective or minimally invasive procedures, the answer is no.
Preparing for surgery is stressful enough without adding a foreign vacation. It’s easier to relax and feel comfortable closer to home.
Responsible plastic surgeons provide a high level of post-operative care to reduce the risk of complications. It’s an important step in the healing process that many foreign clinics don’t offer, since low prices often demand a “revolving-door” policy.
For middle-aged and older patients, facelifts often represent the best opportunity for recapturing a look of youth and vitality. For patients younger than 50, however, facial rejuvenation surgery
often goes unconsidered. That may soon change, based on the results of a new study
in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
, which reveals that younger patients typically reap the best results from what’s being called “maintenance facelifts.”
Earlier studies have already revealed that patients who underwent facelifts at 50 years or older had lower satisfaction scores than their younger counterparts. This is because the skin of patients older than 50 usually shows signs of aging, such as discoloration or uneven texture, that can’t be corrected with facial rejuvenation surgery. Younger patients tend to favor non-surgical procedures
, such as Botox
, facial fillers
, or dermabrasion
, which provide excellent results but don’t last as long as facelifts.
The new study compared short-term and long-term patient satisfaction ratings with expert analyses of their follow-up photographs. Participants were divided into three age groups: under 50, 50-60, and 60+ at the time of the surgery.
Facelift patients younger than 50 experienced a “remarkable maintenance of their youthful appearance,” according to the study. The oldest group, however, had satisfaction scores and expert ratings were lower than the youngest group. This was because they had significant signs of aging at the time of the surgery. While the facelift managed to reverse most of these signs, so that the 60+ patients looked younger than their peers, some indications of aging remaining. Not surprisingly, the intermediate group experienced intermediate results.
The researchers concluded that patients under 50 were especially well-suited to receive facial rejuvenation surgery: “A ‘maintenance’ facelift should be offered to and even preferred in younger patients as a surgical option for facial rejuvenation.”
Younger patients who fight the signs of aging with cosmetic fillers or Botox may want to consider a facelift as a longer-term solution. It may be one of the most satisfying cosmetic procedures that they ever receive.
Tattoos that need to be removed upon later reflection are nothing new. In the twilight of the punk age, however, more unusual modifications have begun appearing in plastic surgeons’ offices. Many younger clients are seeking to reverse generational fashion statements that seem regrettable in hindsight.
, a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle
, interviewed one such individual. 21-year-old Oakland resident Colton Tidwell (not the person pictured to the right), had his ears modified with disc earrings to the extent that he “could fit a golf ball through the hole in his earlobe.” This remnant of his teenage years caused problems later in life:
“I went a little too far with it… My body had become a bumper sticker… It bothered me that people could take one look at me and think they knew what I liked or didn’t like.”
Tidwell often found himself tucking his drooping earlobes
under a baseball cap in order to avoid embarrassment. After having the surgery, which took 30 minutes, he was able to get a new job at a bank, and was happy that his ears had been fixed.
Body Modification Reversal: A Growing Niche
Some plastic surgeons have emerged as niche experts in body modification reversal. Dr. David Kahn, a plastic surgeon in San Francisco who repaired Tidwell’s ears, has worked on half a dozen stretched earlobes over the last two years. Dr. Haresh Yalamanchili, a plastic surgeon in Houston, has performed at least 14 and has become notorious as “the guy who does ears.” To fix a stretched earlobe, surgeons typically make tiny incisions to release the hanging portion. Then they repair the ear’s surface to make it look natural. Videos of the procedure can be seen on YouTube, although these are not for the faint of heart.
“I don’t regret doing it,” Tidwell told the Chronicle about the stretching. “And I don’t regret fixing it, either. You learn something from all of it. It put it in perspective for me: Whatever you do, especially if it’s to your own body, it really matters.”
(Picture source: Wikimedia Commons, Х Рулон Х Обоев Х
The French breast implants manufacturing scandal
has made waves from Paris to Caracas, but according to industry groups, American women who received breast implants
within the U.S. have nothing to fear from the ongoing scandal over defective breast implant devices manufactured by Poly Implant Prosthese (PIP).
Women around the world were shocked last month with the discovery that PIP had released implants filled with industrial silicone, rather than the medical-grade fillers mandated under law, as a cost-saving measure. These implants pose a greater risk for rupture, while the health effects of industrial silicone remain uncertain.
French authorities promptly issued a recall notice to the 30,000 Frenchwomen who had the devices implanted over the past decade.
What About the United States?
While PIP exported to numerous countries, including the United Kingdom, Spain, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Venezuela, its silicone gel-filled implants were never approved
for use in the U.S. A recent press release
from pharmaceutical giant Allergan indicates that the company’s breast implants
use only medical silicone. However, American women who received implants
abroad may have received PIP implants.
What Comes Next?
The effects of industrial-grade silicone on the human body have never been tested, although many have argued that the only result will be that the implants are more likely to rupture. Fears of a greater cancer risk remain unsubstantiated. In medical-grade silicone implants, ruptures can cause scar tissue, inflammation, and irritation. As well, it’s more difficult to remove an implant that has ruptured.
Venezuela has followed France’s lead in offering to foot the bill for removal, although the cost of replacements will not be handled at government expense. The U.K. has advised against removal, although Tim Goodacre, the president of the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons has called for PIP implants’ removal on the grounds of continued uncertainty. Other countries are likely to develop strategies in the coming weeks.