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Are You Skimping on Safety by Skipping the Country for Cosmetic Surgery?

It's as true as ever: you get what you pay for. And increasingly, people who think they'll save money on their cosmetic surgery by traveling overseas seem to be getting in over their heads.

You may have seen news reports or entertainment shows highlighting the latest trend in looking beautiful: plastic surgery vacations. In fact, more and more Americans are traveling to foreign countries like Brazil and Thailand to have surgery, often for 20-40% of the price it would cost in the United States. Plus, time away from your hometown may offer increased privacy, since you only have to tell the neighbors you're going on vacation, not that you're going in for a procedure. But an increasing number of people attracted to the benefits of overseas surgery are hitting some potholes on their journey.

For instance, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) notes that, "Patients may take unnecessary risks, when choosing cosmetic surgery vacations, by unknowingly selecting unqualified physicians and having procedures performed in non-accredited surgical facilities." The ASPS also reminds Americans that since U.S. health and safety laws generally do not extend overseas, injured patients on cosmetic surgery vacations may have no legal recourse for a surgeon's negligence.

Interestingly, the military is reporting a dramatic rise in the number of service members stationed in the Pacific who are electing to undergo cosmetic procedures in Thailand, Vietnam, and other Asian nations. Not surprisingly, they are also seeing a dramatic rise in cosmetic surgery complications, but military doctors correct surgery by outside doctors only if it threatens a patient's life, not if it just looks bad.

According to Navy Cmdr. Shelly Perkins, a general surgeon, "if a patient receives breast implants and one implant gets infected, we will take it out to cure the infection, however the other implant will not be taken out but left in, leaving the patient with only one implant."

This highlights a common problem with overseas surgery-where will you turn if something goes wrong? Will you be forced to fly back to seek treatment from the original surgeon? Would you trust the surgeon to do it right the second time? Will you have to go to an American surgeon, making your combined surgeries cost more than if a U.S. doctor did it right the first time? Many who travel overseas just don't consider these possibilities.

It's understandable to want to save money on cosmetic surgery, which can be an expensive investment in yourself, by traveling to a country where medical services are cheaper. But since very few people "need" plastic surgery immediately, the most financially savvy way to afford cosmetic surgery is to save for the procedure and pay cash upfront. Ideally, you would use loans and financing to cover only essential needs, such as car or house payments. But of course, due to modern financial demands, it may be hard to pinch enough pennies before your surgery. If you're concerned about affording a cosmetic procedure, you may want to think about some of other ways to stretch your dollar before booking that international flight.

Shop Around

For almost any surgical procedure, it's important for your own safety to get a second opinion. But it also makes good financial sense as well. By consulting with a handful of surgeons in your area offering the procedure you're interested in, you'll have a much better idea of what the surgery requires and what you'll be able to achieve for a reasonable price.

Of course, price is not the only consideration, and you should ask surgeons questions about their training, experience, surgical style, aftercare, and outcomes. If you just focus on price, you're liable to get a cheap-looking result. But if you weigh cost along with the level of service and skill you're getting from an experienced plastic surgeon, you're much more likely to be more pleased with your surgery for years to come.

Cosmetic Surgery Financing

If you just can't wait to have your cosmetic procedure, but the price is a little out of reach, you may want to consider plastic surgery financing. By obtaining a loan, you are able to select surgery with a trusted, local surgeon who will be there to provide aftercare and guard against complications. Most surgeons now offer or accept at least one form of cosmetic surgery financing from over a dozen major companies specializing in this area.

But realize that cosmetic surgery financing is not a cure-all for your financial woes. These types of loans are known as "unsecured," meaning that, unlike a car or home loan, the banks don't have an asset they can repossess if you can't afford to repay the loan. As a result, these loans are riskier, and carry a higher interest rate, sometimes as high as 27.99% depending on your credit score.

If a plastic surgery vacation sounds like a good idea to you, make sure to do the research, and ask yourself if it's the best way to make the surgery of your dreams affordable. Often, by shopping around and looking at your financing options, you'll be able to afford the services of a board-certified plastic surgeon who's committed to providing a safe surgical environment and carefully-managed recovery.

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