Last week, one of my breast augmentation patients came in for a follow-up visit and brought along her sister Beth. Beth explained that she had spent the past several years feeling insecure about her breast size and after seeing her sister’s newfound confidence, she was seriously considering this option for herself. She mentioned that she was doing some research online and was surprised to discover that it would actually cost less to fly to Costa Rica for surgery than to have a Chicago breast augmentation. Beth couldn’t help but wonder if Costa Rica was a better deal and came in with her sister to ask my advice.
When discussing medical procedures with my patients, I try to advise them as though they were a member of my own family. What if my sister, mother or wife was exploring this option? What advice would I give them? February in Chicago versus February in Costa Rica? After this most recent snowstorm, I could certainly understand her temptation. But let’s not lose sight of her real goal here, breast augmentation surgery. And in this case, could the fantasy of long walks on the beach, Piña Coladas by the pool, relaxing spa services and more be distracting her from making a reasonable and safe decision when it comes to choosing a plastic surgeon? Don’t get me wrong. There are excellent surgeons abroad who are well trained, highly experienced and provide excellent patient care. But if a member of my family was seeking cosmetic surgery overseas, the first thing I would do is verify the plastic surgeon’s credentials, training and prior disciplinary records.
As a physician, it is my duty to inform my patients about the risks and benefits of surgery so they can make an educated decision about how to proceed. So I asked her a few questions.
- Do you and the surgeon speak the same language? Language barriers can lead to miscommunication.
- What happens if you are not satisfied with the results or if something goes wrong? American malpractice laws do not apply in other countries and it may be difficult to find a surgeon in the U.S. who will correct complications that occurred abroad.
- How long will you be able to stay in Costa Rica to recuperate? Will you be able to remain long enough to schedule post-op visits? Your surgeon should monitor your progress and ensure that you are healing properly. It is also important to note that the American Society of Plastic Surgeons recommends that patients wait ten days post-surgery before flying. Flying too soon may cause blood clots and other complications.
The last thing I wanted Beth to consider was how much she would actually be able to enjoy the amenities that would be provided in Costa Rica. Realistically, she should not sunbath, swim, go for long walks or drink alcohol after surgery. That can complicate the healing process.
Ultimately, my recommendation for Beth was to select the best plastic surgeon who could help her achieve her desired results. I would recommend a board certified plastic surgeon who is a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, one of the most prestigious societies in the field, to ensure the highest level of training, expertise and experience. Since it’s in her best interest to follow-up with the surgeon who preforms the surgery, I would also suggest choosing a surgeon who is close to home, right here in Chicago. We may not live in the rain forest, however I reminded Beth that Oak Street Beach is just a couple blocks away. There’s a nice breeze off the lake this time of year and if she asks real nicely, she may even be able to find a plastic surgeon who would be willing to throw in a box of virgin piña colada mix and a colorful umbrella to give her a more tropical experience close to home.
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Please note that unless you are actually my patient, in which case I have seen you at JW Plastic Surgery, then I am technically not your doctor. These posts and responses to inquiries are provided for educational and entertainment purposes but cannot apply to any individual patient who has not been directly evaluated by myself or another board-certified plastic surgeon.