Stay Local for Elective Cosmetic Surgery

Matthew C Camp, MD
Board Certified Plastic Surgeon

Elective cosmetic surgery is a significant decision that involves not only the procedure itself but also pre- and post-operative care. While the allure of cut-rate prices and flashy advertising can be tempting, especially from out-of-state or international providers, there are compelling reasons to seek care from a local surgeon. The potential complications associated with traveling for surgery, such as bleeding, deep vein thrombosis (DVT), and post-operative infections, underscore the prudence of choosing a local, board-certified surgeon.

Complications During Travel

Traveling for surgery introduces several risks that are often overlooked in the quest for savings. Air travel, in particular, can exacerbate certain medical conditions. Long flights increase the risk of DVT, a condition where blood clots form in the deep veins of the legs. These clots can travel to the lungs, causing a potentially fatal pulmonary embolism. The risk is heightened when combined with the immobility and stress of recent surgery. Additionally, air pressure changes during flights can contribute to bleeding and other complications in surgical patients.

Lack of Follow-Up Care

One of the most critical aspects of surgical care is the ability to have follow-up appointments with the original surgeon. Follow-up care ensures that any complications, such as infections or wound issues, can be promptly addressed by the person most familiar with the case. When patients travel out of state or out of the country for surgery, they lose the opportunity for seamless follow-up care. Should complications arise, local healthcare providers may lack detailed knowledge of the surgical techniques and materials used, potentially leading to suboptimal management of post-operative issues.

Increased Risk of Infection

Surgery in foreign countries can significantly increase the risk of infection. While many international clinics maintain high standards, the variability in healthcare regulations and practices can lead to discrepancies in infection control. Post-operative infections can be challenging to manage and require prompt and precise treatment. The difficulty of coordinating care between foreign providers and local healthcare professionals complicates the treatment process, often resulting in delayed interventions and prolonged recovery times.

Quality and Safety Standards

Local surgeons are subject to stringent regulatory standards and continuous professional oversight. Board certified plastic surgeons in the United States, for example, must adhere to rigorous training requirements, ethical guidelines, and continuing education. These standards ensure a high level of competency and patient safety. In contrast, the qualifications and oversight of surgeons in other countries can vary widely, potentially compromising the quality of care.

Economic Considerations

While the initial cost of surgery may appear lower in other states or countries, hidden costs can quickly accumulate. Travel expenses, accommodation, and potential lost wages from extended recovery periods away from home add to the overall cost. Moreover, the financial burden of managing complications or revisions, which are more likely without proper follow-up care, can surpass any initial savings. Investing in a local surgeon, despite the higher upfront cost, often proves more economical in the long run.

Patient Support Systems

Undergoing surgery is a significant emotional and physical undertaking. Having the support of family and friends close by during recovery can have a substantial positive impact on the healing process. Local surgery ensures that patients can recover in familiar surroundings with their support network readily available. This support is crucial for emotional well-being and can aid in a smoother, faster recovery.


While the prospect of traveling for elective cosmetic surgery might seem appealing due to lower costs and enticing advertisements, the potential risks and complications make it a less prudent choice. Choosing a local surgeon ensures better continuity of care, adherence to high safety standards, and immediate access to follow-up appointments. The peace of mind that comes with knowing that your surgeon is nearby, coupled with the support of loved ones, far outweighs the initial savings. In the realm of elective cosmetic surgery, prioritizing quality, safety, and comprehensive care is essential, and staying local is a key part of that prudent approach.