Can I have breast reduction surgery abroad?

This is a very attractive option for a great many people. Cosmetic surgery is very often cheaper abroad and breast reduction surgery is no different. This is more commonly known as ‘medical tourism’.

The thought of having your surgery in a sunny location followed by a short holiday afterwards is a tempting one. However, it is not without its dangers and you need to be aware of the downsides of this decision.

There are many providers, both here and abroad who offer special deals or ‘cut price surgery’. These offers are very tempting and as price is a factor many people do go for these offers. However, there is a saying, ‘you get what you pay for’ and this applies here.

You may find that your cosmetic bargain is not that good a deal. It may not include aftercare which is vital. You may have to pay extra for that and other aspects of your care. Do you have to return to that country for aftercare? If so, then you are looking at more expense.

And, there is the cost of the flight and accommodation to consider.

Consider this scenario: you are looking at surgery in South Africa. You will have the cost of the flight to that country for the initial consultation. Then, you will have to book a flight for the surgery itself. Plus, you may have to return to that country for your follow up visits.

This is going to add up. It can end up being more expensive than if you had opted for surgery in the UK.

You also need to find a reputable surgeon. This cannot be emphasised enough. Most surgeons are highly skilled, experienced people who only want the best for you. Unfortunately, there are a few unscrupulous surgeons who are not qualified or experienced and undertake surgery for financial reasons only. There are clinics who are only interested in making a profit and not with your welfare.

Avoid these like the plague

When you are looking at clinics and surgeons, make sure that they are run to the same high standards as the UK. Make sure that the surgeon is ‘board certified’: this means he/she is a member of a professional organisation. This organisation will be very similar to BAPRAS, BAAPS or The British Association of Cosmetic Surgeons.

In the UK, cosmetic surgery is regulated by the Healthcare Commission and the GMC. Different rules and standards of regulation vary from one country to the next.

Your surgeon may have a UK registration. Some surgeons have undergone their specialist training here in the UK and are listed on the Specialist Register for Plastic Surgery, held by the GMC.

Check that the facilities of the clinic are clean and well run. Make sure that the staff speak English. The language barrier can be a tricky one but you will require people around you that can speak English.

Check that when you are discharged that you are taken to a private room within the hospital or clinic. Some providers offer a hotel stay as part of your package and will discharge you to that hotel after surgery. The problem with this is that if complications arise then the hotel is not equipped to deal with them.

Another important issue here is that a long haul flight can increase the risk of deep vein thrombosis. When combined with major surgery then the risk increases even more. Ideally, you should wait for a week before flying home to the UK after your surgery.

If complications arise when you are abroad then check if your travel insurance will cover this. If this means you have to stay longer then can you afford to pay for this or will your insurance cover all of this? It is worth taking out full holiday cover which includes this, especially if you have to be flown back to the UK.

If complications arise after your surgery, when you are back in the UK, do you then have to arrange a flight back to that clinic? If these happen in the first couple of days following surgery then you are unlikely to be fit enough to travel. Would you want to get on a plane when you are in pain and feeling lousy in general?

A better solution is one where you attend the pre-surgery and post-surgery consultations here in the UK. This means you arrange a flight and accommodation for your surgery only.

When choosing a surgeon and clinic, apply the same process as you would do here in the UK. Make sure the surgeon is qualified and registered. Ask to see his/her qualifications. Ask to see ‘before’ and ‘after’ photographs.

When you ask for a quote make sure that you know what that includes, and, what it excludes. Does it include follow up visits? Does it include the cost of medication? Do you have to pay extra for the anaesthetist or the nursing care?

In the worst case scenario, say if something goes wrong, can you contact your surgeon? Will he/she be able to put it right? Will you have to pay extra for this?

If complications arise when you are back in the UK and you are unable to reach your surgeon or the clinic where the surgery was performed then go to your local A & E department.

This is not designed to put you off from going abroad. Many people do opt for surgery abroad and have successful surgery followed by a relaxing break. However, there are people who end up with badly done or ‘botched’ surgery which then needs corrective work.

According to BAPRAS there has been an increase in the number of patients turning to the NHS for help because of poorly done cosmetic surgery. This means the NHS has to pick up the pieces and the bill.

This is not popular with NHS surgeons who feel that this diverts their attention away from patients with life threatening conditions.

They argue that those patients should have this repair work done by the original surgeon.

If you are thinking of going abroad for your surgery then research this very carefully.

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