Imagine: you arrive at the destination in a short and comfortable flight, you are picked up by a limousine to a crazy boutique hotel, you eat a delicious and rich breakfast in front of an impressive open view. Later you will visit, for a short time, the clinic where you will undergo the medical procedure that will make you see and feel better. During your stay you will be free to tour the markets and tourist sites, enjoy tasting local cuisine and also rest. You will return to Israel in a few days, satisfied with your appearance and, yes, happier. After all, you have obtained dental treatments, hair transplants, aesthetic facial surgeries, abdominal stretching, liposuction and breast surgery at a third to a half price of what was required of you in the country. The good life. Life is Beautiful. A dream come true. That’s it, that’s really not the case.
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The expensive price of the cheap price
It is no secret that in various parts of the world, including Eastern Europe and Turkey, there are advanced medical sites and first-rate doctors and surgeons. They are experienced, analyze dozens of people a day, talented and experts in their field. Turkey, for example, is by itself when it comes to hair transplants and is indeed a leader in the field. One can think of all the right reasons to travel to do a hair transplant there at half the cost of what is done in Israel. But it is important to understand the difference between a hair transplant, which is a simple and short operation with a minimal percentage of complications and danger, and plastic surgery under general anesthesia.
Although there are talented and professional doctors in the destinations that Israelis travel to undergo surgery, there is a problem that stems from regulation. In Israel, there is control over such surgeries. For example, according to Ministry of Health instructions, a plastic surgeon is qualified to perform aesthetic surgeries as part of a lengthy training he undergoes that lasts no less than six years, while an ENT surgeon is not allowed to do a facelift and a general surgeon is not allowed to do a tummy tuck or breast surgery.
In Israel, a doctor who specializes in surgery undergoes dedicated tests for each operation he is allowed to perform and the number of operations he is authorized to perform is under the control of the Scientific Council and the internship program. Therefore, in Israel, there is a high level of surgery in every profession, in every field and in every operation.
In some countries outside Israel, there is no orderly regulation, and a potential surgeon usually does not know what certificates his surgeon has, what training, whether he is a general surgeon, an ENT doctor or a gynecologist, and what his expertise is.
And if the beautiful postcard turns out to be ugly?
The choice of a surgeon outside of Israel is usually based on aggressive marketing and the impressive page that the surgeon has on social networks. While in Israel, the supervision and strictness of control and the quality of expert performance is very high and strict and the Israeli Ministry of Health trusts the control over the training of interns and a professional association of specialists, the level of medicine outside Israel is diverse. You can find an excellent level of medicine compared to a less good level, there is no uniformity, and usually the patient client chooses a surgeon based on the recommendations of friends, campaigners and photos on social networks.
Everything is good and beautiful, it’s just a pity that the complications you take on yourself when you try to save money while flying abroad to perform surgical-aesthetic procedures can cost you much more and even increase your health.
If your motive for such a trip is an economic motive, you should think twice, since the first factor that will determine the success of the treatment is not the price, but the professionalism of the surgeon who performs the invasive operation and the subsequent follow-up. Are you confident in controlling the professionalism of the specialist doctor?
Do only professional photographs you have seen reflect the entire process associated with the surgery? Are you aware of the results of all the surgeries performed abroad, and not just the publications of “before” and “after” photographs?
And if God forbid something in healing gets complicated? What will you do? Does saving money justify risk options due to performing the procedure away from home?
This is where the health insurance element comes in. Those who travel for aesthetic treatments abroad must understand that they are subject to health insurance restrictions. Before traveling abroad we purchase a health policy, which usually costs between one and two dollars per person per day (in pre-Corona times) depending on each person’s health status. Before signing the insurance, you are asked if you are going to do extreme sports or another activity that needs additional insurance. It is important to note that these insurances do not cover elective aesthetic surgeries abroad. There is a reason for this: If you are traveling for aesthetic surgery overseas, and there is a complication that requires medical intervention, hospitalization or emergency surgery, the insurance will not necessarily cover it. You may be dragged into very high costs and medical care in hospitals that you are unaware of their level of medical professionalism. It is important to mention that sometimes these surgeries, which are performed under general anesthesia, are performed in countries that are not in the “best” relationship with Israel. So that other risks are added that are beyond your control.
Another flight to repair the damage
According to data from the Israeli Plastic Surgery Association, every year about 50 patients are hospitalized in Israel due to complications of aesthetic surgeries performed outside Israel. These complications can include skin lesions that include necrosis, infection, accumulation of blood and fluid that requires drainage in the operating room, opening of scars and surgical wound, difficult-to-heal wounds and deformities that result from the surgery or unprofessional surgery.
These patients are citizens of the State of Israel and deserve medical treatment because of their condition. Therefore the complications of the procedures performed in the sand become a burden on the inpatient wards, as they require long hospitalizations of several days and sometimes weeks. It is true that surgical procedures in the country that patients undergo may also get complicated and end up in hospitalization wards in hospitals. But keep in mind that the surgeon and staff who were involved in the surgery are close by and can give and answer at any stage.
The complications of foreign surgeons will be treated in Israel, and after an initial recovery period, patients will be forced to return to the destination where the surgery was performed to repair the damage caused, and in doing so contact the chief local surgeon for a response to treatment or surgery and damage caused.
Beyond that, the success of the surgery always includes control in which the patient comes for an audit, that is, a meeting with the surgeon. Patients who undergo a major surgical procedure abroad, return to Israel several days after the operation, and receive guidance on the continuation of the treatment to be performed in Israel. They will not travel abroad for an audit, and in fact an important step in the success of the surgical procedure is avoided.
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Personally, as a senior plastic surgeon at a hospital in the center of the country, I recently treated two cases of complications of surgeons undergoing abdominal surgery abroad. Those patients needed follow-up treatment, in an operating room, including prolonged hospitalization in the ward.
So in the end, patients who want to fix the problem created by an aesthetic surgery that was not performed in the country will have to pay a higher price than if they had surgery in the country in the first place, undergo the follow-up and post-surgery reviews until full recovery.
So, the next time you are tempted to have a “cheap” plastic surgery abroad with a package that includes a limousine, a chauffeur, a boutique hotel and a glass of champagne – think twice about “cheap” being expensive.
* Dr. Eitam Weiss – Specialist in plastic and aesthetic surgery. Owner of a private clinic in Tel Aviv