As a Slovakian woman’s botched boob job becomes the subject of tabloid news, it brings rise to the question of ‘plastic surgery tourism’ and whether or not UK women are risking their health or the result of the surgery by going overseas to get cosmetic procedures done more cheaply.

Such tourism has risen over the years as plastic surgery becomes more and more popular yet for many remains out of financial reach. As a result, overseas clinics offering surgery at much lower prices – combined with relatively cheap air travel – means that travelling to a foreign country for treatment has become an attractive option for some potential patients.


Plastic Surgery Tourism Hotspots

Popular European countries for lower prices include Belgium, Poland, Slovakia and the Ukraine. These countries, particularly those in Eastern Europe, are cheap to get to and also relatively inexpensive once there. They are also becoming popular holiday destinations in their own right which means a trip overseas for surgery can include convalescing time in a sought after and attractive area.

Companies tap in to this desire and will often offer a holiday plus a treatment as a combined package. What this means however is that the patient (or rather, perhaps, ‘customer’) is sold the package deal in the UK, prior to taking the trip and therefore before consulting with the doctor who will carry out the procedure. Therefore the decision made is usually based on cost and how well the package has been sold, rather than on medical research and suitability, as should be the case.

The Risks of Surgery Abroad

Choosing to undertake plastic surgery at home means the patient can shop around by speaking to potential doctors, as well as undertaking research on a particular clinic or surgeon. It also means the opportunity to request to see qualifications and past work, including testimonials and before and after photographs. Without these checks the patient is effectively taking a punt on the technique and skill of the doctor at the other end of the flight.

Having surgery in a different country also presents other possible problems, including cultural or even language barriers. Whilst English may be commonly spoken it may become harder to get information if it’s of a complex medical or legal nature. Different countries also mean different regulations and possibly standards, in which case the customer may be exposing themselves to more risk than if the procedure was carried out in the UK.

What aftercare will be offered also ought to be taken in to account; though the holiday may be extended by a week or two after the operation complications can arise well after this. What recourse does the patient then have? And perhaps crucially, who could they complain to?

Though the botched breast implants in the papers were not an example of plastic surgery tourism, the procedure was undertaken in a country that has become popular for it. Plastic Surgeon Adrian Richards, who specialises in breast enlargement at his own UK plastic surgery clinic, questions what would have happened had the patient been from the UK:

“A good plastic surgery clinic should offer comprehensive aftercare for all surgeries. Ideally this should include a 24-hour hotline available to all patients in the weeks following surgery, in case any post-operative complications arise. If this were to happen to a British patient seeking surgery overseas, I do wonder what recourse they would have to revise the surgery.”

British professional plastic surgery body BAAPS also urge caution to any prospective patients seeking surgery abroad.

by Dani Porter

Dani is a freelance journalist who specialises in the beauty industry, with particular focus on aesthetic procedures and treatments.