Reviewed by Varnada Karriem-Norwood on May 27, 2012

Sources

Robert Kotler, MD, FACS Cosmetic and Plastic Surgeon of the Face and Neck Clinical instructor, Division of Head & Neck Surgery, UCLA Medical School.

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Video Transcript

Narrator: It's cheaper, but is it safe to have my surgery performed overseas?

Robert Kotler, MD: The question is what are the risks of traveling 8,000 miles, say to South Africa or down to Costa Rica and having cosmetic surgery and is it a good deal? Well, dollars and cents wise, it is a good deal, but remember you have to factor in the air fare and all those other issues.

Robert Kotler, MD (cont.): But let's just say that the total expenditure is less and it may well be. Uhm, it's not the craziest thing in the world frankly, for some people. And by some people I mean those who are a little more adventuresome. Here's why. First of all, you do combine it with a vacation, but you better take the vacation part of it first, because you don't want to be bouncing around on a safari truck after you've had your tummy tuck.

Robert Kotler, MD (cont.): But secondly, the real issue is what if there is a problem, and who presides over the post-operative care, because you know the care of the patient doesn't end at the end of the operation, or even a week or ten days later. Because after all, there are wounds that have to mature, sometimes they heal better in one person than another, and who's going to preside over that so the issue is who is going to give the post-operative care.

Robert Kotler, MD (cont.): That's the best scenario problem. But the worst scenario problem is what if I get a complication or infection and now I'm 3,000 miles or 10,000 miles away from home, it's costing me X amount of money because my health insurance doesn't even cover this medical problem that I have because I'm in a foreign country, I don't have any family here. Is that likely? Most of the time not, frankly. I will tell you that the South African surgeons are very good.

Robert Kotler, MD (cont.): We've seen excellent work coming up from Costa Rica, but we've also seen some very substandard work coming up from Costa Rica. For example, I could tell you the same thing about Mexico, I could tell you that I've seen people come back who have had very nice work done, and we've had other people that walked into this office without an appointment, having a massive abdominal infection because the doctor that operated on them across the border is gone, is missing, doesn't respond to phone calls, and they walked into this building because they know we have a lot of cosmetic surgeons in this building and they need help.

Robert Kotler, MD (cont.): So for those who are adventuresome, who tend to worry less, it's probably okay. Pick your country, pick your doctor well. The more advanced countries I think offer you a little more sophistication and safety. Again, you can ask the same questions by the way, the questions that I suggest people ask, about board certification, which by the way, there are many board certified specialists. I should say board certified by American boards practicing in other countries. That is the world wide standard of excellence by the way. American board certification is it, and many doctors come here from other countries to study, to pass the boards, so they can go home and say I am an American board certified specialist, so there are running good practices outside the United States.