What is Surgical Tourism

We live in a global economy, and surgical tourism is being marketed to New Zealanders, encouraging them to travel to Asia for cosmetic surgery. Should travel agents be acting as brokers to connect potential patients with surgeons the patient has never met?

We live in a global economy, and surgical tourism is being marketed to New Zealanders, encouraging them to travel to Asia for cosmetic surgery. The costs may seem cheap, and the business is profitable for the companies who arrange it, and the hospitals where it is performed. Should travel agents be acting as brokers to connect a potential patient with a surgeon the patient has never met?

Patients are entitled to go wherever they please for cosmetic or any type of surgery. However, there are some cautions which they should be mindful of.

Compare the advantages of seeing a surgeon in NZ, and preferably one in your own city.

  • The process usually involves 1 or 2 pre operative consultations to decide  whether surgery is appropriate, and if so, which technique is best suited to achieve your goals. You will be provided with written information and costs.
  • Second opinions are easily obtained.
  • The Medical Council insists on a “cooling off” period of 7 days between the consultation and surgery. This helps avoid “buyer remorse”.
  • The surgery will be done by a Specialist Plastic Surgeon, registered by the Medical Council of NZ, and a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons. The surgeon must be maintaining his Continuing Professional Development requirements.
  • Post operative care will be supervised by the surgeon.
  • Management of complications will be provided by the surgeon.
  • Revisions if required, will be performed by the surgeon.
  • ACC coverage will apply should there be “Treatment Injury”. 
  • There is a well established complaints procedure with the Health and Disability Commissioner.

If you are considering Cosmetic Surgery overseas, you would be wise to find out about

  • The training of the surgeon – is the surgeon a Specialist Plastic Surgeon, properly trained in cosmetic procedures. Or is he a surgeon operating outside of his scope of practice e.g. a general surgeon, or gynaecologist who has extended into cosmetic surgery.
  • Is the hospital a certified institution, with properly trained staff and anaesthetists, and the ability to manage emergencies.
  • What consulting time is allocated. Will you see the surgeon or his assistant. How many consultations will there be. How much time is allowed for you to think about it. You should talk about clinical issues with the surgeon, not a travel agent.
  • Will you be fully informed about the goals, limitations, expected post operative course, and complications.
  • What implants will be used. Why are they cheaper than in NZ?
  • How long is the supervision period after surgery. When is it safe to return to NZ. Is a long plane trip after surgery a risk for deep vein thrombosis.
  • How, and by whom will complications be managed. Will there be additional costs.
  • What happens if complications occur after you return to NZ. Can you contact the overseas surgeon directly. Does he have any accountability.  Will the promoting company fly you back to the overseas  hospital. What are the costs. Will a NZ surgeon look after you. Will you be covered by ACC. Will you have to go to the Public Hospital.
  • If the result at 3 months is not satisfactory, will the overseas surgeon perform a revision, and how is that paid for.
  • Travelling abroad for surgery, just to save money, must be considered very carefully. There can be irreversible consequences from poorly performed surgery.