Women's health * Travel health

NHS foots the bill for complications after cosmetic surgery abroad

zone image Cosmetic surgery mistakes carried out abroad, adds to NHS burden

Research published today by The British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS) revealed almost a quarter of plastic surgeons treated patients with complications caused by cosmetic surgery performed outside the UK.

In 2007, plastic surgeons in the UK saw at least 208 patients with complications after cosmetic surgery abroad. Approximately three quarters of those patients had complications that required treatment. Of these:

  • 26% of patients had to have emergency surgery
  • 31% opted to have elective surgery to rectify the problem
  • 33% had non-surgical treatment as an out-patient
  • 8% of patients had non-surgical treatment as an in-patient

Complications following surgery were most frequently seen in breast augmentation,(29%), abdominoplasty (24%), breast reductions (15%) and 10% following a face or neck lift.

BAPRAS warned that it may prove costly to both patient’s health and the NHS if UK citizens choose to have cosmetic surgery abroad. It urged people considering going overseas to have cosmetic surgery to undertake plenty of research before doing so.

In the UK, the responsibility for surgery aftercare for cosmetic surgery carried out privately, lies with the plastic surgeon who performed the procedure. However, for surgery carried out abroad, this is often not the case.

Patients returning from cosmetic surgery outside Britain often look to the NHS to provide aftercare, which inevitably takes resources away from other patients.

This is a trend which is expected to rise in the future, due to the increase in 'cosmetic tourism' and may affect NHS waiting times for other plastic surgery procedures in cancer, trauma and elective surgery.

Anthony Armstrong, a consultant plastic surgeon and chair of BAPRAS’ clinical effectiveness committee said: “Cosmetic operations involve major surgery. Anyone considering cosmetic surgery abroad must make sure they are fully aware of the potential complications that can occur and consider how these will be dealt with. They should not assume that the NHS will pick up the pieces and, they may find themselves having to pay privately for follow-up surgery here.”

All surgery carries the risk of complications. However, BAPRAS warned that patients travelling by plane too soon after surgery, put themselves at an increased risk of deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism.

This article was published on Thu 4 December 2008

Image © maska82 - Fotolia.com

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