Medical Tourists Increasingly Choose Plastic Surgery

Tuesday, 05 Nov 2013 02:50 PM

By Nick Tate

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Americans are increasingly traveling abroad for medical procedures, especially plastic surgery, a new study shows.

According to an article in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery — the medical journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, a growing number of Americans are traveling to Mexico, India, and other countries for less-expensive nose jobs and breast augmentation surgery.

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The paper, by Kevin C. Chung and Lauren E. Franzblau of the University of Michigan, notes the growth of medical tourism is having a significant impact on the cosmetic surgery market in the U.S., but also raises concerns over physical safety and legal protection. Although destination countries promote the quality and safety of their procedures and facilities, there is often little evidence to support these claims, the authors suggested.
 
"The rise and transformation of the medical tourism industry, foreign and domestic forces that influence cosmetic surgical tourism, and the pros and cons for all involved parties." Chung and Franzblau said. "The rapid globalization of the industry also marks a fundamental shift in the world's perception of elective procedures: Patients are becoming consumers and these medical services are being viewed as commodities."
 
Because cosmetic plastic surgery procedures aren't covered by insurance, and can be costly, they make up a major part of the burgeoning medical tourism market, the researchers noted. India alone may have more than one million medical tourists per year. Other countries with growing medical tourism industries include Mexico, Dubai, South Africa, Thailand, and Singapore.
 
Prices for cosmetic surgery in these countries are typically much lower than in the U.S. For example, a breast augmentation procedure that would cost $6,000 in the U.S. can be done for $2,200 in India. Even after the costs of airfare are factored in, having an operation overseas can be much less expensive, the researchers said.
 
"Because the practice of medical travel does not appear to be going away in the foreseeable future, plastic surgeons must understand the international market and learn to compete in it," they added. "To retain patients and be competitive in a global market, U.S. plastic surgery must be vigilant of the changes in medical tourism and must adapt accordingly."

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