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Overseas Cosmetic Surgery: Is it Worth the Risk?

Cosmetic surgery has become increasingly popular over recent years, due to its affordability and regular documentation across social media. Celebrities and influencers have helped make this growing trend a desirable one for the average person, meaning that some are willing to cut corners to receive the results they are hoping for at prices as affordable as possible. This has resulted in an increase in the amount of people travelling overseas with the intention of undergoing one or more cosmetic procedures in order to save money.

With travel restrictions easing as we start to see the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, trips abroad for cosmetic surgeries are on the rise again.

Thousands of Britons each year are booking flights to the world’s cosmetic surgery capitals in search of a new body at a reduced price tag. However, those who engage in this kind of medical tourism are often unaware of just how serious the risks can be when committing to cheap surgery abroad.

In recent months, the incredibly dangerous yet desired Brazilian Bum Lift has reemerged in the spotlight, with more young women taking the risks that come with this potentially harmful procedure and suffering unwanted, sometimes even fatal, botched consequences.

It’s well known that any medical procedure can carry a certain degree of risk, but having overseas surgery can pose even more harm than you might realise. These potential problems must be identified and carefully considered before making a decision to go under the knife whilst abroad.

Why do people choose to go abroad for surgery?

As previously mentioned, the price of having surgery abroad is often much cheaper than it would be to have the same procedure in the UK.

Since there are more regulations around cosmetic surgery and its effects here at home, most cosmetic surgery procedures are elective, meaning that they cannot be easily obtained on the NHS. People who are looking to make aesthetic amendments will need to turn to private treatment, which can often be costly here in the UK. However, it’s noted that going abroad can drop the costs of a procedure by 40-80%, depending on the country of origin. These results have been generated by the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS).

Another reason for people wanting to travel abroad for cosmetic surgery is the range of procedures that are offered in other countries. Whilst some procedures might be banned in the UK due to their dangerous nature, other countries might be able to offer them, and at a much cheaper rate. There’s also usually a reduced wait time for overseas surgeries, meaning that you won’t have to wait as long for the results you’re hoping for.

Surgery abroad isn’t all doom and gloom, though. Some people opt to travel due to specialist surgery that they might not be able to receive at home. They might have their heart set on a specific surgeon who has the utmost respect within their field as well as many client recommendations.

What are the risks of overseas surgeries?

Travelling abroad for your cosmetic surgery might offer short-term savings, but the risks that come with having these procedures away from home can be in their plenties. You might find yourself paying for your surgery in ways that you’d hoped not.


  • One of the reasons why medical treatment is more expensive in the UK is to do with the high standards that British practitioners are held to. The costs to receive proper accreditation and training which is acceptable enough for the strictly regulated healthcare system are incredibly high in comparison to those of other countries. Many countries now have an obligation to hold equally high standards of practice, but if you are unfamiliar with a country, their culture, and most of all their medical facilities and doctors, you might find it much harder to find a clinic you can trust. This could lead to your surgery being performed in substandard facilities without your knowledge as the research isn’t available.
  • You also run the risk of facing language barriers and miscommunication with the actual procedure you want performed. This could lead to not getting the desired results you are aiming for, or even receiving a surgery that is completely different from the one you thought you were getting. Language barriers can also make it difficult to check that your surgeon has the right training and credentials before performing your operation.
  • Many medical tourists will forget about the return journey and the complications that can come with long-distance travel following a recent surgery. Flying within the same week of a cosmetic procedure can greatly increase the chances of blood clots, which could lead to deep vein thrombosis or a pulmonary embolism. These can ultimately be fatal.
  • Without the safety net of English regulations and the national healthcare system to fall back on in the event of an emergency, it makes it difficult to know what steps to take if a surgery was to go wrong. You typically won’t be able to return to the clinic that administered your care quickly, due to the long distance, meaning that you might not know who to turn to if you want to lodge an official complaint. Overseas surgery can even void your travel insurance, which could leave you in some serious trouble if you do face an issue.

What new problems have surfaced with having surgeries abroad?

  • Since the COVID-19 pandemic, travel to amber and red countries has been off limits to many. However, as the restrictions continue to ease, these overseas cosmetic surgery bookings have seen a resurgence.

Travellers should be aware that after surgery, or any kind of body trauma, your immune system is compromised and your body becomes more susceptible to illness. This could potentially mean that it would be much easier for you to contract the COVID-19 virus on your way to or from the country which your procedure is booked in. Results of a virus could prolong your surgery healing time, possibly prevent you from travelling back home to relax and repair, and could even cause lasting, irreversible damage.

  • Also, with the continuous rise in popularity of social media platforms, cosmetic surgeries are being glamorized and seen as a popular thing to do. This could encourage more young people to go under the knife and take on surgery that they might not need, which could result in them having to get touch ups much sooner than they would have if they had had the procedures at an older age. The more surgeries someone has throughout their lifetime, the more they are putting themselves at risk of a potentially botched procedure.

Which destinations are the most popular for overseas cosmetic surgery?

Other European countries that offer similar surgeries are unlikely to produce high savings like those further afield. Those who travel in search of low-cost treatments and procedures will often visit countries like Turkey, Poland, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic.

In recent years, South American countries have also become a popular destination for overseas surgeries. Countries include Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia. Other well-known areas that people travel to for cosmetic enhancements include India and Thailand.

Is it really worth the risk?

If you are still thinking of going ahead with an overseas cosmetic surgery, you should thoroughly research the clinic that you are going to beforehand, and ensure that you have asked every necessary question to put your mind at ease.

There are some steps that you can take to help minimise the risks associated with undergoing cosmetic surgery abroad, such as educating yourself about the implications that could occur with your specific surgery and contacting your airline or travel provider to make sure that you are covered with travel insurance. You’ll want to have a clear plan in place in case anything goes wrong - expert advice of organisations like ISAPS and the British Association of Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAAPS) can help with this.

Patients should thoroughly research both the procedure and the practitioner they have chosen, taking the time to look at the credentials of their surgeon and talk through any worries they may have.

However, the potential pitfalls associated with overseas cosmetic surgeries could ultimately outweigh the advantages. Patients undergoing any invasive medical procedure deserve to have the right knowledge provided by their practitioner and confidence in the care that they will receive throughout - the risks that can come with medical tourism mean that this isn’t always possible.

What steps can you take to be safe?

For maximum safety and understanding, it would be recommended that you save up the necessary costs to have your surgery performed in the UK instead, where you are covered in case of any injuries or issues that could occur as a result.

Read our guide on how to find a safe cosmetic surgeon in the UK. Alternatively, if you have been a victim of clinical negligence as a result of a botched cosmetic surgery, get in touch with us and we will assist you with your claim. Call 0808 291 1223, or request a callback by completing our contact form.


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