You have decided to opt for cosmetic surgery abroad, you have seen your own doctor to make sure your overall health is good and you know what procedure you want. What next? The key to a successful outcome is to do as much research as possible so that you can choose the country, clinic and individual surgeon to suit your needs. When things go wrong with cosmetic surgery abroad, it is often because a clinic has been booked in haste, or a patient has taken a recommendation from a friend before really checking it out.
Get professional advice
Just as you go to a travel agent to book a holiday package, rather than doing all the research yourself for flights, hotels and transfers, it is possible to use a reputable medical tourism agency that can find out what you need and then offer you possible options based on their experience.
Choosing a good medical tourism agency gives you the advantage of tapping into their specialist knowledge and experience of particular countries and clinics. They will take over all the practical arrangements and you may even get a discounted price compared to booking directly because of their special relationship with their clients.
Choosing a country
If you prefer to make all the choices and arrangements yourself, your first stage of decision making is where you will travel to for your cosmetic surgery.
- You need to first of all check that the procedure that you want is offered by clinics in the countries you are thinking of. For most common cosmetic surgery procedures, your choice will be wide.
- Then consider the advice in our article on Cosmetic surgery abroad –is it right for me? and narrow down your choice of countries to a short list of a maximum of five.
- You may then want to look in more detail at individual clinics across those five countries, before making your final choice.
- Check whether the countries you are considering have any special requirements, such as a visa, or necessary vaccinations/malaria prevention.
Choosing a clinic
The ideal way to check out a clinic is to visit and talk to the staff and the surgeon. Going abroad for cosmetic surgery means that this is not possible, so you need to find ways to assess clinics from a distance.
- Face-to-face meetings. Some of the larger cosmetic surgery clinics abroad provide sessions, in a city in your own country, where you can come and meet representatives from the clinic. Some of these are purely a marketing exercise, but others will include medical staff and surgeons. Try to find out before booking.
- Using a clinic’s website. Cosmetic surgery clinics abroad try to offer prospective patients detailed information on their facilities and services on their websites. Look for clinics that provide up-to-date information on their facilities, with photographs, full profiles of their surgeons detailing their qualifications and experience, and that give you clear instructions on how to contact them.
- Using email and telephone. It is possible to gain a valuable first impression of a cosmetic surgery clinic abroad by speaking to them on the phone or engaging in email correspondence. Are they happy to respond to your queries? Does your interaction suggest there may be a significant language barrier? Do they provide detailed information, or do they seem reluctant? Are they able to provide recent patient testimonials?
Choosing a surgeon
This is bound up with your choice of clinic. Find out as much as you can about the surgeon who will be doing your procedure, not just the surgeon who is the most senior in the clinic. Find out how long they have been doing cosmetic surgery, ask about their qualifications and training, research whether they are accredited by international medical organisations.
Cosmetic surgery clinics abroad may have surgeons available for treating patients from abroad who have trained in the USA, the UK or other major western European centres. Some may have membership of the UK’s General Medical Council, or be accredited by the USA’s Joint Commission International (JCI), or by the European Society of Surgery.
Word of mouth – Ratings and reviews
relatives may have experience of knowledge of cosmetic surgery at hospitals and
clinics abroad. But you can also use the internet to find out what the “word of
mouth” us about a particular cosmetic clinic or surgeon.
The Medical Tourism Reviews web site
is a useful source of information on other patients’ experiences. It’s like a
“TripAdvisor” of medical tourism, enabling patients to publish ratings and
comments about their experience of travelling for treatment. You can also visit
various cosmetic surgery information sites that have forums covering cosmetic
“What the patients
say” is a pretty good guide to good and bad providers of cosmetic surgery.
Questions to ask when making your final choice
- What data can the clinic or surgeon provide regarding their success rates/complication rates/infection rates for the type of cosmetic surgery you are considering?
- What is the total cost, including all checks, aftercare, anaesthetics, drugs and clinic accommodation?
- What pre-surgery checks and post-surgery care are included in the price of the cosmetic surgery?
- How long does the surgeon recommend staying in the clinic? Are you able to contact the clinic if you experience problems such as swelling or pain?
- How long do you need to wait before being able to fly home?
- Will the surgeon and nurses speak a language you are familiar with? Will medical notes be written in a language you understand?
- If a complication arises, which needs further treatment, is this covered in the price?
Making arrangements for your cosmetic surgery
You will need to contact your chosen clinic and make a firm booking for your treatment, and then sort out your travel and accommodation arrangements so that you arrive a couple of days beforehand, and stay for long enough to complete your initial recovery.