A growing trend
Cosmetic surgery is a $16 billion-dollar industry in the United States with 17.5 million cosmetic and minimally-invasive procedures performed in 2017, according to statistics from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
More cosmetic surgery procedures are done in the United States than in any other country, but our plastic surgeons and hospitals are the most expensive.
By traveling abroad, people can save 40 to 80 percent for plastic surgery, depending on the procedure and the country. Brazil, Japan, Italy, and Mexico are among the top international destinations of choice for cosmetic surgery, with Russia, India, Turkey, Germany, and France rounding out the top ten, according to the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS).
Medical tourism, which covers all types of procedures including elective plastic surgery, is growing worldwide at an estimated rate of 15 to 25 percent, according to Patients Beyond Borders, a respected research firm and clearinghouse for data and information on the health travel industry.
The organization estimates that approximately 1.4 million Americans travel to another country annually for everything from knee surgery to dental crowns.
Many Americans who would never consider going overseas for a new knee don’t hesitate to travel for cosmetic surgery. The ISAPS reported that over 20 million cosmetic surgical and nonsurgical procedures were performed worldwide in 2014.
There are also potential drawbacks to going abroad for plastic surgery.
A study in the April issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery reported that complications like infections, wound healing problems, pain, and hospitalization have occurred after some patients return home.
Costly postoperative care isn’t always covered by the patient’s insurance, which can quickly turn the overseas bargain into a financial nightmare.
“There are plenty of bad actors out there, particularly in the border towns of Mexico,” Patients Beyond Borders CEO, Josef Woodman told Healthline, “but also in high-traffic leisure travel destinations known for cosmetic surgery, such as Dubai, Bangkok, and Istanbul. It’s critical for traveling patients to carefully vet and select reputable providers with track records of successful outcomes.”
The most popular types of cosmetic surgery
Women often travel abroad for breast augmentation, which continues to be the world’s most popular cosmetic procedure, followed by liposuction, eyelid surgery, rhinoplasty (nose jobs), abdominoplasty (tummy tucks), and breast lifts, according to ISAPS. In 2016, labiaplasty (reducing the length of the labia minora) rose 45 percent and lower body lifts increased 29 percent.