The Risks of Cosmetic Surgery Abroad

Danielle Lowe
By Danielle Lowe

Danielle Lowe is the Marketing Manager for, the UK’s largest aesthetic information website. 

Recent reports indicate that health tourism and in particular the phenomenon of patients travelling abroad for cosmetic surgery procedures is on the rise.

Whilst the vast majority of cosmetic surgery undertaken abroad is successful, the Department of Health and trade associations such as BAPRAS and BAAPS have advice which can reduce the risks of complications.

Some common issues which may arise and pitfalls to be aware of when patients travel abroad for cosmetic surgery include:


In the event that things go wrong, a general holiday insurance policy is unlikely to cover you.

Ensure that your policy includes cover for a possible extended hospital stay or a medical evacuation home should complications arise.

Also, check with the clinic’s own medical indemnity policy-maker to ensure they’re covered correctly for treating patients from abroad if you do end up needing to make a claim.

Understanding the Risks of Cosmetic Surgery Abroad

Medical Standards

Medical standards can vary wildly between countries. Hospital cleanliness may not be as high abroad and so the risk of post-op infection may be higher. It is also important to research the standards and requirements for membership of professional bodies that surgeons may belong to in the country where you are planning to have your surgery.

Whilst most are equivalent to their domestic counterparts, this may not always be the case. Communication is an important aspect as well, even if the health professional(s) you are dealing with speak good English the nuances and specifics might be a little harder to communicate between the parties involved, being prepared for this is important.



Most patients will fly before and after their cosmetic surgery procedures that are undertaken in a foreign country. This itself can create additional risks such as deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism which are heightened after surgery.

Where possible, patients should allow for extra post-surgery recovery time before flying. Before you travel, try and see if a friend or family member will go with you; it can be daunting doing an undertaking such as this, and having someone around to make sure you can care for both mentally and physically is a good idea, particularly after the operation itself.

 what are the risks of cosmetic surgery abroad

Pre-op consultations

Normally a patient has the opportunity to assess the competence and quality of the treatment and care they will receive during a consultation with their surgeon prior to a procedure.

When the surgeon is in a different country this is only possible if more than one trip is made; which can prove to be expensive.

Post-surgery complications

After returning from overseas it is still possible for post-surgical complications to arise. Whilst these can be dealt with locally, there will be no direct access to the medical team and surgeon who performed the original procedure.

In the event of problems, a return trip to the hospital where the procedure was undertaken may be necessary and this is unlikely to be included in the original price. Furthermore, as well as the extra cost incurred for returning, more importantly, your own health may well not be able to stand the pressures of travelling back to the original clinic.

To mitigate this, look for surgeons/clinics that are partnered with UK clinics for follow-up care. That way, you’ll have the benefit of knowing that a good understanding of your procedure will already been passed on to UK surgeons, which in turn should make your experience much smoother. It’s the safer option as well, should an emergency arise, the groundwork will already have been laid for care.

There are several pieces of advice which can help the risks associated when undertaking plastic surgery overseas.


Get advice from your own doctor

Your own GP will be able to advise you on the basic medical aspects of the procedure you are considering and advise you of the risks that may be involved.


Do not make a hasty decision

Most cosmetic surgery is invasive and so it is important to assess all the risks and weigh up the pros and cons before making a decision. Remember, your health is important and no procedure is totally risk-free. Also, don’t make a decision based on price alone, fairly self-explanatory, but important all the same.

Being lured by cheap foreign deals could be a mistake. As a priority, make sure the clinic in question has a professional attitude and their staff are all fully trained and qualified.

In most cases, cosmetic surgery abroad is no more risky than having the procedure done at home. Provided you do your research and are prepared for any problems that may arise then it will be a good experience. 

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