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Complications of Cosmetic Surgery Tourism: Case Series and Cost Analysis. Aesthet Surg J 2021 Apr 12;41(5):627-634



Pubmed ID




Scopus ID

2-s2.0-85101515486 (requires institutional sign-in at Scopus site)   11 Citations


BACKGROUND: Cosmetic surgery tourism is increasing exponentially. Patients seek cosmetic procedures within the United States and abroad, lured by lower cost procedures, shorter waiting lists, and affordable airfare and hotel accommodations. Unfortunately, operations are often performed by non-board-certified plastic surgeons, sometimes not even by plastic surgeons. Preoperative counseling, frequently limited to a video-chat with an office secretary, provides inadequate discussion regarding potential complications. Postoperative care is careless and rarely involves the operating surgeon. Complications are frequent, with management falling into the hands of plastic surgeons unfamiliar with the patient's care. Furthermore, the physician, rather than the patient or hospital, faces the largest cost burden.

OBJECTIVES: The authors sought to explore their institution's experience treating complications of cosmetic tourism and investigate associated costs.

METHODS: The retrospective review of 16 patients treated for complications related to cosmetic surgery tourism plus cost analysis revealed a substantial discrepancy between money saved by undergoing surgery abroad and massive costs accrued to treat surgical complications.

RESULTS: The most common complication was infection, often requiring surgery or IV antibiotics on discharge. Mean cost per patient was $26,657.19, ranging from $392 (single outpatient visit) to $154,700.79 (prolonged admission and surgery). Overall, the hospital retained 63% of billed charges, while physicians retained only 9%. The greatest amount paid by any single patient was $2635.00 by a patient with private insurance.

CONCLUSIONS: Cosmetic tourism has severe medical repercussions for patients and complications that burden hospitals, physicians, and the US medical system. Physicians treating the complications suffer the greatest financial loss.

Author List

Venditto C, Gallagher M, Hettinger P, Havlik R, Zarb R, Argenta A, Doren E, Sanger J, Klement K, Dzwierzynski W, LoGiudice J, Jensen J


William W. Dzwierzynski MD Professor in the Plastic Surgery department at Medical College of Wisconsin
Robert Havlik MD Chair, Professor in the Plastic Surgery department at Medical College of Wisconsin
John A. LoGiudice MD Professor in the Plastic Surgery department at Medical College of Wisconsin

MESH terms used to index this publication - Major topics in bold

Costs and Cost Analysis
Medical Tourism
Postoperative Complications
Retrospective Studies
Surgery, Plastic