- Where once there was a stigma, plastic surgery is now regarded as a status symbol.
- Many patients are oblivious to the risks associated with discounted procedures performed by unqualified practitioners.
- If the price of a plastic surgery procedure sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
When it comes to plastic surgery, don’t get caught up in the allure of bargain shopping. They may seduce your pocketbook, but strip mall cosmetic procedures and plastic surgery vacation getaways to foreign countries are filled with potential peril.
The Celebrity Effect
Cosmetic surgery generates 15 billion dollars in annual revenue each year in the United States, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS). That figure translates into hundreds of thousands of facelifts, liposuctions, breast augmentations, nose reshaping procedures, eyelid surgeries, and countless other cosmetic procedures.
Women account for 91% of all cosmetic surgery patients in the United States and are the force behind the industry’s 5% annual growth rate. That steady growth is what psychologist and self-help writer Ros Taylor calls the “byproduct of both the accessibility to cosmetic procedures and the lack of stigma concerning them.”
Celebrities, in particular, are contributing to the normalization of plastic surgery. With the media glare of cameras that follow their every nip and tuck, appearance-altering procedures have lost much of their the clandestine nature, and have now become mainstream components of many women’s beauty routines.
But there lies the rub. Psychologists and surgeons fear that the accessibility and popularity of plastic surgery are leaving the wrong impression, as patients increasingly ignore potential risks associated with going under the knife.
In trying to keep up with the Joneses (or Kardashians), many patients are opting for risky bargain surgeries, both here and abroad.
How Doctors Cut Corners
Dr. Kevin Brenner, a board-certified Beverly Hills plastic and reconstructive surgeon, explains how some doctors discount their operations by cutting costs in the anesthesia department.
“If you deduct all anesthesia-related costs from an operation, surgery will be fairly cheap, but much less safe,” notes Brenner, explaining that the use of local anesthesia combined with minimal oral sedation is marketed as a safer alternative.
”However, for many types of operations being awake is not safer. And the fact that doctors perform cosmetic surgery using only local anesthetics means they can carry out a procedure in an office instead of an accredited surgical facility.”
“As a consequence,” he confirms, “there is a much higher anesthetic-related risk, and possible contact with pathogens that may lead to a higher chance of infection.”
The Unfortunate Case of Marisol Ordonez
Take the case of Marisol Ordonez. She recently told a local Florida television reporter that she still suffers from the effects of the South Florida discount plastic surgery she underwent in August, 2017.
When she left the facility, still under sedation, she could not feel her extremities. “They literally threw me into the back of my car,” Ordonez says.
In the days after her surgery she lost feeling in her arms and legs, before the left side of her face became paralyzed. She returned to the clinic numerous times, where doctors informed her that she was simply experiencing the side effects of anesthesia.
When she finally visited a neurologist, she discovered that she’d had a stroke. Today, Ordonez is permanently on medication to prevent another stroke and remains unable to use her left arm.
Plastic Surgery Vacations
And it’s not just discount plastic surgeries available in the United States that you need to avoid. A 2016 Time Magazine cautionary article titled The Dangers of Plastic Surgery Tourism notes that every year approximately 750,000 Americans are lured by the lower costs of medical care abroad. In some cases, savings can amount to nearly 90% on cosmetic procedures.
A typical package will include your pick of an operation, or operations – as well as tour itineraries, resort activities, and access to spas.
If the high cost of plastic surgery makes you want to travel abroad for a discount procedure, think again. Although the cheaper rates may sound seductive, it’s a temptation that is rife with risk.
The disquieting circumstances connected to such junkets is especially disturbing when you consider that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) cautions patients to avoid typical “vacation activities” following surgery – including swimming, sunbathing, and alcohol consumption.
Keep in mind that long flights following such procedures can also increase the dangers of developing a pulmonary embolism (a blockage in an artery of the lungs), and blood clots. It’s recommended that you wait five to seven days after most procedures before flying, and even longer if you have had any face work done.
Miami board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Jacob Freiman says that you should be concerned about traveling to another country to have plastic surgery. “Other countries may have some good plastic surgeons, but very few countries have the stringent laws that the United States has to protect a patient.”
“Every week I see patients that have had surgeries performed by ’doctors’ in places such as Colombia, the Dominican Republic, and Brazil who’ve been mutilated,” he says — a fact that makes him wonder if those procedures were performed by people with no training at all.
”That isn’t to say there aren’t some excellent surgeons abroad, but there seems to be very little oversight.” Freiman cautions that following up with a surgeon is vital to ensure excellent outcomes. And because many patients can’t can’t afford to return to such destinations for a follow-up, they are putting themselves in a dangerous position.
What to Look for in a Plastic Surgeon
Follow your intuition. If you have concerns about a doctor, your feelings are probably accurate. Also be weary of deals that appear to be too good to be true. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) lists the average national pricing for cosmetic procedures on their website. Use those listings as a reference.
Also perform the following background checks:
- Inquire with your state medical board to learn if there are any complaints or suspensions of a surgeon’s license.
- Check that your doctor is a board-certified plastic surgeon.
- Browse online assessments of your surgeon.
- Trust word of mouth. Friends and family members who have had plastic surgery are excellent sources of information and facts.
While flashy promises for dirt cheap plastic surgery are increasingly offered both here and abroad, patients must accept that having surgery is not like buying a new pair of shoes.
Post-surgical complications can result in patients finding themselves in emotionally and economically challenging positions, especially if their health is seriously compromised or their physical appearance is altered for the worse.
That’s why it’s important to always keep in mind that anytime you have surgery you are putting yourself at risk. So don’t be seduced by strip mall procedures that skimp on your safety, or leave the country on a plastic surgery junket where American laws can’t protect you.
When it comes to your health and well-being, spend the extra money; it’s the right thing to do.