Since I wrote about the positives and the pitfalls of plastic surgery, I have received several emails about offshore plastic surgery. Or in other words, how about getting a plastic surgery procedure done outside the US or Europe, where it is much cheaper.

Hoph! Offshoring manufacturing (to China) and software (to India) is one thing, but are we truly ready to actually look at other options for surgery? After all, this is not the same as writing a program since the problems associated with a glitch could be life threatening! Especially aesthetic surgery, when it is cosmetic, is being performed to actually ‘enhance’ a person’s looks so clearly the margin of error is even smaller! On the other side of the argument is that since plastic surgery procedures are generally not covered by health insurance, there is little incentive to pay top dollars in the US. And that is the main reason why plastic surgery clinics in many countries are offering less expensive options.

Is plastic surgery overseas as good as that in the US or in Europe?

The answer varies by the procedure involved but by and large, it is safe to assume that given appropriate due diligence, centers in India, Brazil and Thailand perform surgery as good as anywhere in the US and sometimes even better than in parts of the US. Why is that you ask? Well, one of the reasons is that surgery has a steep learning curve. Given the population that these centers and countries cater to, most surgeons in these parts of the world may gain more experience per year of practice as compared to surgeons in the US or Europe. Now, now, before you jump at me, remember this refers to an average US surgeon in comparison to an average bloke in these countries. Exceptions could of course exist!

Where should I go for plastic surgery?

India is definitely a great choice because there are plastic surgeon and clinics exclusively for overseas patients. Some hospitals are actually in the process of signing up American and European board certified surgeons to commute to these centers to take advantage of lower cost structure in India. Some Indian surgeons are fully qualified to work in the US, but again for cost reasons, prefer to operate in India.

There are clinics in other countries that are starting to offer plastic surgery packages. Brazil, Thailand, Eastern European countries, and Mexico all offer less expensive choices.

How do I make sure that I don’t get into trouble?

1. Do some research on the web about the Facial plastic surgeon and the clinic. Carefully note the doctor’s credentials and any comments from past patients.

2. Ask around. If anyone you know has had a procedure overseas, use that knowledge in making up your mind.

3. Don’t just walk into the surgery room. Arrive a day or two early. Take a tour of the facilities and schedule a session with your surgeon so that you can ask all your questions.

4. If the surgeon or the clinic is not willing to meet your requests or acts suspicious (for example, refusing to answer all your queries) or you have any other doubts, look around more. There are many other choices.

How to pick the right plastic surgeon?

Summary: Like you would research to pick any other doctor for treating you, the same needs to be done when picking a plastic surgeon. It is important that the plastic surgeon is competent and also has proper backup systems in place so that if something goes wrong you are in good hands It is surgery, after all.

Plastic surgery is serious and just as with any operation, surgical procedures carry risks. “With the increasing popularity of plastic surgery, combined with the reality show Extreme Makeover, it could be easy for the general public to overlook the serious nature of elective cosmetic surgical procedures,” said Debraj Shome, MD, Head of The Esthetic Clinic TM in India. “But what the public needs to know is that at the highest level of care, every surgery has risks as well as benefits”, added Dr. Debraj Shome in an interview to CNN.

So before you decide to undergo plastic surgery, you have to make sure that the surgeon is not only qualified to perform surgery but also has a clean record. While most surgeries are uneventful, do not forget that when a surgery turns into a complication, it can not only cause permanent damage to your body, it could also be fatal. If the doctor/clinic/hospital do not have the right systems in place, you will be helpless.

Who is the right plastic surgeon for my procedure?

Most plastic surgeons in today’s day and age should be specializing in a few procedures. Be wary of the plastic surgeon who claims to do it all! That is because any procedure or plastic surgery deserves the best hands – Hands which routinely perform the surgery you desire! But today, with so many cosmetic centres, how do you choose your surgeon? Well, here are a few practical tips that would be very useful for you to remember while you choose your plastic surgeon.

The most important parameter undoubtedly is your doctor’s training in the related field. It is important to find out what procedures your doctor specializes in, how many he or she has performed and how recently. Though often overlooked, it is important to find out whether the surgery/correction you are considering forms a significant chunk of your surgeon’s practice. For example, the results of a Rhinoplasty would be best in the hands of someone who specializes in them, rather than a ‘general’ plastic surgeon who spends most of the time in tummy liposuction! It is important to look ‘through’ the illusive term ‘plastic surgeon’, and assess the actual areas of expertise.

How well is your surgeon known among his peers in his specialty is one more parameter that defines an excellent surgeon. Almost always, peer reviewed publications in internationally reputed medical journals is a good way to assess how respected your surgeon is among his peers. This can be done easily by typing his/her name in, the largest worldwide collection of medical literature and journals.

It is important to make a note about the hospital your surgeon works in, the facilities available, especially multi-specialty support for complex problems, and trauma. The credibility and general reputation of the hospital would certainly have significant bearing on your surgical results, and this factor is as important as the surgeon.

Finally, you do not have to restrict yourselves to consulting just one physician. Second and third opinions, as well as blind opinions are well accepted today, even by the doctors. Do feel free to consult more than one doctor if you wish to!

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons offers the following suggestions to anyone interested in having cosmetic plastic surgery:

• Check Board Certification: Determine if your physician is certified by a board.

• Ensure Safe Facilities: Everyone who chooses cosmetic plastic surgery has the right to a safe procedure. Injectables should be administered in a setting with appropriate medical personnel and necessary equipment to observe patients and manage potential complications, as well as provide for the disposal of medical waste as required by Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations. ASPS requires all members who perform surgery under anesthesia to do so in an accredited, licensed or Medicare-approved facility.

• Require a Medical Evaluation: When considering a cosmetic plastic surgery procedure, consult with a physician for an evaluation, as well as a full medical history, to determine what is most appropriate.

• Be Informed: Speak with friends and family about the procedure as well as with a physician. When a treatment decision is made cooperatively between the physician and patient, the physician should explain the risks, benefits, alternatives, and reasoning for the proposed treatment, after which an informed consent document should be signed by the patient.

Ask Questions:

o Are you certified by The American Board of Plastic Surgery/ Facial Plastic Surgery or qualified to be?

o What is the best procedure for me?

o Where and how will you perform my procedure?

o What are the risks (Reasons for plastic surgery) involved with my procedure?

o Will my procedure need to be repeated?

o How much downtime should I expect? (How to prepare for plastic surgery?)

o Do you have hospital privileges to perform cosmetic surgery?

o How much will my procedure cost?

o Are financing options available?

o How are complications handled?

Finally, it is worthwhile to remember that since it is your body, a little ‘stitch in time will eventually save nine’. Stay Safe, Stay Esthetic.

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