The True Costs of Medical Tourism in Thailand

Are you thinking about having cosmetic surgery in Thailand?

Here are some facts and things to consider before taking the plunge.

I will take you through all the issues relating to undergoing cosmetic surgery in Thailand vs in Australia.

Disclosure: I am a registered specialist surgeon (breast and abdominal) in Australia. I have never performed surgery in Thailand and do not know anything about their healthcare system. Do you?

I am going to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the cosmetic tourism industry in Thailand vs Australia. I hope that at the end of this, you will be more informed about the differences before you make your decision.

Firstly, I’d like to give you a warning: Do not be seduced by the cosmetic tourism industry and their claims; surgery is NOT a holiday! Surgery carries potential risks and complications, some of which relate to flying after surgery.

Advantages of cosmetic surgery in Thailand or overseas:

  1. Price: cosmetic surgery procedures are very cheap in Thailand in comparison to Australia and other developed countries
  1. Exciting and glamorous: you can have an operation that will enhance your appearance and go overseas for a “holiday”
  1. Going away and arriving back home as the “new you”
  1. Thailand is world renowned for transgender, gender re-assignment and feminization surgery. No discussion or debate here!

Disadvantages of medical tourism in Thailand

  1. Uncertainty: Thailand is a foreign country with many uncertainties in the medical world. Before deciding to undergo surgery in Thailand, you should have answers to the following questions:
  • Do you know what will actually happen?
  • Have you been correctly assessed and sized?
  • Have the surgery and all related options been discussed? Have you made decisions about your options?
  • Have you been listened to and given the opportunity to express your desires regarding the outcome of your surgery?
  • Have your expectations been met?
  • Are you aware of what’s involved with the consent process?
  • Have all the risks and complications been discussed?
  • Were you able to ask questions and voice your opinion?
  1. Process: You are going to undergo an anaesthetic (with its own set of risks and complications) and surgery. This process is very strenuous on the body– far from the glamorous holiday you may be imagining. Surgery and anaesthesia will leave you sore, causing tightness and pressure, and making you feel unwell from the anaesthetic and painkillers. You also may experience significant vomiting post-surgery.
  1. Air travel: flying comes with the innate risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Surgery itself carries risk of DVT so, flying post-surgery “doubles” your risk. Deep vein thrombosis can result in what is called a pulmonary embolus.

This happens when some of the blood clot in a DVT breaks off from the veins in your legs, travels to and lodges in the veins in your lungs. This is a serious risk and can be fatal. It affects otherwise young, fit, and healthy people. It’s essential to examine DVT and other travel risks when considering to have your surgery overseas for cost saving reason.

  1. Regarding breast surgery and specifically breast augmentation, are you aware of the advantages and disadvantages of under the muscle vs over the muscle implants? Have you been properly evaluated and have the options and risks been discussed?

In general, surgeons in Thailand typically place implants behind the pecs (submuscular) and tend to use incorrect size implants in western women (often for cultural reasons).

  1. Despite what you might be told, there is no routine follow-up back in Australia for cosmetic surgery done abroad. When you arrive back, if something is wrong, you will struggle to find a cosmetic specialist in Australia that will see you and assess you for complications. If you have a complication that requires corrective surgery, Australian surgeons, in general, will not perform this surgery as a “no gap” operation.

Revision surgery for complications when the primary surgery is performed by a different surgeon is hard to come by. The outcomes are hard to predict and revision (corrective) surgery done by a different surgeon is more difficult and always more expensive.

  1. Finally, Australian hospitals and anaesthetic services/fees are much higher than non-western countries. There is often a superior standard of quality associated with the higher prices paid for these services.

Please take all of this into consideration when making your decision on overseas cosmetic surgery. Are the surgeons and anaesthetists abroad of the same standard as you would expect in Australia?

Please think about these issues carefully before you make a decision. The saying “You get what you pay for” is often true, especially when it comes to cosmetic surgery in Thailand vs Australia. If you cannot afford to have the surgery at home in Australia, can you afford to have the corrective surgery in Australia for complications with surgery abroad?

Want more information on cosmetic surgery and procedures? Check out Dr. Robert Goldman’s cosmetic surgery blog or if you wish to discuss any of these issues, contact Dr Robert Goldman, cosmetic breast and body surgeon today.


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