An increasing number of Australians are heading overseas for medical surgery every year, spending millions of dollars mostly on cosmetic procedures mainly in developing countries.

There are well known and well documented risks of travelling away from home for surgery. When travelling to another country, there are other medical risks to consider such as the safety of the blood supply and the quality of medications and medical devices available. The issue of follow-up care is also of major concern. If there is a complication, unanticipated hospital days may occur, which could prove to be very expensive.

One of the most obvious concerns is that it may be difficult to address a complication once you return home. Unless you can afford to fly back whenever there is a problem, you will be paying an Australian doctor or dentist to repair the work done in another country. What may have seemed like a cheap alternative to surgery in Australia can often turn out to be “a false economy”.

A friend of mine recently travelled to Thailand for some major dental work that was required, much of it was cosmetic and something she was looking forward to having done. After being quoted a price in Australia, my friend researched online and found a dental practice in Thailand that specialised in what she needed. “Great!” she thought, “I will have a holiday at the same time.”

After arriving in Thailand, little that was promised online materialised. No one met her at the airport, and when she did eventually find her way to the surgery, it was nothing like the one that was promoted on the surgery’s website. To add to the drama, there was a lack of communication, or to be more precise a lack of English communication. And then it got worse, a whole lot worse.

Eventually, my friend had to get all the bad work undone and new dental work undertaken in Australia. The final cost was three times what she would have originally paid in Australia, with a lot more physical and emotional pain. If you were to ask my friend, should you risk it – she would strongly suggest you think twice before undertaking any unnecessary surgery outside of Australia.

Cosmetic surgery is no longer the realm of the wealthy. There are now tens of thousands of procedures performed in Australia yearly and, according to the Australasian College of Cosmetic Surgery, the rise is set to grow exponentially.

This rise in demand has created a boom in so-called “nip-tuck holidays”. In countries like Thailand, India, South Korea and Malaysia, increasing numbers of mostly female “medical tourists” from all over the world can be found lazing poolside with a cocktail in one hand and painkillers in the other.

To satisfy this increasing demand, specialist travel companies have sprung up to cash in. But what you need to know is that these companies get kickbacks from the doctors, hospitals and hotels they’re linked to. This means there’s a risk they could promote a super-size mentality, encouraging people to have multiple procedures that could put their bodies under quite a bit of duress, in circumstances that are unknown.

This trend has Australian plastic and cosmetic surgeons gravely concerned, as cosmetic surgery overseas is not regulated as carefully as it is in Australia. In Australia, surgeons undergo stringent training that takes years and they see cosmetic surgery patients several times before a procedure. In many overseas countries, it’s common to only briefly meet your surgeon on the day he or she’s going to operate.

It comes down to risk assessment. Are you willing to risk your health, your money and your appearance? If you answered “no” to any of those, then it’s clear; it’s just not worth it. Oh, and in case you’re wavering, I can pass on my friend’s phone number – she can tell you!


Tracey Hordern works as a journalist, editor and copywriter. Tracey has edited and written for newspapers, magazines, websites and books for the last twenty years. “Everything from The Australian newspaper to Green Pages, Australian Contemporary Design to Voyeur (Virgin Blue’s in-flight magazine) and The Plastic Surgery Hub.”

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