Plastic Surgery Tourism

Grewal Law: Plane flying over palm trees.

Plastic surgery has seen a boom in recent years. In 2017 there were 17 million surgical and minimally invasive cosmetic procedures done in the United States—a 2% increase from 2016. It’s no surprise that this has prompted many to search for procedures at a more affordable price. Thus sparking a new category of travel called “plastic surgery tourism.” In this blog, we will break down the basics of this travel category, including some of its dangers. Continue reading for more information.


Plastic surgery tourism happens when people travel or vacation to other countries for cosmetic procedures. Plastic surgery tourism is mostly considered safe when proper research is done. According to this study, around 1.4 million patients from the U.S. seek some form of medical care abroad each year. Many of those who traveled did so for a plastic surgery procedure.

Top Destinations

Most people associate plastic surgery with places in Latin America; however, a majority of Americans seek care in countries with free healthcare of popular destinations. Some of the most traveled places are overseas in countries like Turkey and Japan. Other popular destinations include India, Mexico, and the Czech Republic.

Most Common Procedures

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, some of the most common plastic surgery procedures include:

  • Breast enlargement, reduction, lift, or augmentation
  • Brazilian butt lift
  • Chin, jaw, or cheek reshaping
  • Facelift
  • Rhinoplasty (nose job)
  • Abdominoplasty (tummy tuck)


There are quite a few reasons why a person would seek a plastic surgery procedure in another country. Below are some reasonings:

Lower Costs

It’s estimated that people who travel abroad save 40% to 80% on the cost of the procedure, depending on the country. The cost of postoperative care is drastically low in other countries, and hospital stays cost less too. Some clinics even have partnerships with local resorts where patients can stay and get the postoperative care they need there. Not to mention, the cost of malpractice insurance in the U.S. is high.

Insurance Incentives

Some insurance providers, like Aetna, have begun programs that safely promote medical tourism. Why is that? Well, when the insured person saves money, the insurance provider does so too. Other insurance companies go as far as to offer financial incentives, like discounts on medical bills, to get patients to participate in medical tourism.


Those traveling from the U.S. for plastic surgery often return to their original country for the sake of comfort. Not only will they have family available to take care of them post-op, but they also won’t have to worry about the language barriers they may experience here in the U.S.


While plastic surgery tourism offers financial and cultural benefits, there are also many downsides to seeking care outside the country. Below are some of the risks associated with plastic surgery tourism.

Lack of Quality

While many hope their procedure goes smoothly, many have returned from another country unpleased with their results. Although staff members do their best to provide their patients with the utmost care, it doesn’t mean much with a low-quality facility.

Research is key. Our firm recommends finding online forums or groups on Facebook for the city the patient plans on traveling to. There the patient can ask for recommendations and testimonials to ensure the quality of the facility is up to par.

Communication Barriers:

English is most likely a person’s first language if they are a native of the United States. If someone does plan on traveling to a country where English is not well-spoken, they must prepare to find a way to communicate with the staff. This will make it difficult to express any needs or concerns with the healthcare professional taking care of them, which could result in complications down the road.

Lack of Postoperative Care

While some clinics and hospitals offer some type of postoperative care package, that is not the same for those who seek procedures from larger hospitals. Patients who travel abroad are in charge of setting up their own post-op care, whether it’s booking a hotel room for a few days to rest or seeking aid from local nurses who can help them move around. Patients do not have the luxury of returning home immediately to be in the care of their family members.

Traveling Post-op

Many do not know that the risks of infection and blood clots increase while flying anytime longer than four hours. It is not recommended to fly directly after surgery; however, some people ignore the risks in hopes of getting home sooner. Scheduling a flight a week post-op will reduce a patient’s risk of developing a severe complication.

Unplanned Injuries or Illnesses

If a patient sustains an injury or illness abroad, they may need to extend their trip to get the care they need, which could end up costing them more than a procedure here in the United States. A patient should always speak with a healthcare professional about the health risks of staying in another country. Some destinations require specific vaccinations, reducing the risk of foreign illnesses. Falling ill after surgery can be life-threatening.

Lack of Verifiable Facilities

A patient should seek out internationally accredited facilities if they plan on traveling out of the country. Some countries have public hospitals which aren’t as up to par as most hospitals here in the states. Unfortunately, some patients have been left to suffer as some hospitals in other countries don’t have intensive care units. It’s crucial for patients to do research on all of the local hospitals and clinics in the area, as they may be needed in the event of a medical emergency.

No Legal Protection

The last final consideration we mentioned earlier is that a patient has no legal recourse in the event of malpractice. This would leave patients financially responsible for any postoperative care or surgery they may need to make a full recovery.

Our Recommendations

While we cannot make the decision for you, we recommend that you stay within the country to undergo plastic surgery procedures. Once you have found what you believe to be a verifiable doctor, use the American Board of Plastic Surgery site to confirm their certification. There are plenty of doctors abroad who are certified by the board. Also, alert your primary physician about your plans to travel so they can alert you about the risks and necessities you need to make the procedure happen.

Likewise, be sure to avoid low prices and unbelievable deals—the quality tends to match the price. Plastic surgery procedures are invasive, meaning your safety should be your top priority. Choose someone who is open with you about the potential risks and side effects. If a surgeon tells you that a procedure carries little to no risk, they’re definitely not telling the truth.

Michigan Medical Malpractice Attorneys

Our Michigan medical malpractice attorneys are here for you if you have any questions about the legal risks of traveling to another country for surgery. Our firm handles a variety of medical malpractice cases involving surgical errors, anesthesia mistakes, medication & pharmaceutical errors, wrongful death, and more. There should be no hesitation when it comes to getting the care you need—contact us today for a free, confidential consultation.

Call us at (888) 211-5798 or fill out a consultation request form to get in touch with one of our legal experts.

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