Incidence of Complications from International Surgery Tourism: Results of the Members Survey
Kaveh Alizadeh, MD MSc.
Long Island Plastic Surgical Group, Garden City, NY, USA.
Medical tourism is reported to be one of the most disruptive innovations in healthcare today. Over 750,000 Americans travelled abroad for medical procedures in 2007. This number is expected to reach six million by 2010. Despite the increasing number of plastic surgery patients seeking procedures abroad, there is little reported data concerning outcomes, follow-up, or complication rates. The purpose of our study was to ascertain the experience of ASPS members in treating patients who traveled abroad for cosmetic surgery by 1) Define the scope of the problem and 2) Gather data to guide further follow-up studies.
An online survey was distributed to 2,000 ASAPS members via email. The following variables were examined: Experience with patients who traveled abroad, types of complications, treatments rendered, compensation received, as well as type and location of practice.
There was a 18.4 % overall response rate with 61.1% being in solo practice and over 75% with a mixed cosmetic and reconstructive practice which reflects the ASPS members. 30% of the complications were reported to be from surgical tourism. The majority of the patients were self-referred via the emergency room and involved either breast augmentation or body contouring procedures. 52.5% of the ASPS surgeons who responded had treated 1-5 such patients. More than half of the patients required multiple operations and at least one patient required over month hospitalization in the ICU. Compensation was highly variable in this population as not all patients were covered by their insurance.
Although medical tourism is increasingly becoming popular, there are a large number of complications that are not addressed by the primary surgeons. We hope to highlight the efforts by the ASPS surgeons to treat the complications in these unfortunate patients once they return to the United States and establish the preliminary data for outcomes analysis of these patients who are treated in the United States.
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