The medical tourism market is a rapidly growing sector fueled by increasing health care costs, longer domestic waiting times, economic recession, and cheaper air travel.
Objectives: The authors investigate public opinion on undergoing cosmetic surgery abroad and then explore the information patients are likely to encounter on the Internet when searching for such services.
A poll of 197 members of the general public was conducted in the United Kingdom. An Internet search including the terms plastic surgery abroad was conducted, and the first 100 relevant sites were reviewed.
Of the 197 respondents, 47% had considered having some form of cosmetic surgery. Most (97%) would consider going abroad for their procedure. The Internet was a source of information for 70%. The review of the first 100 sites under “plastic surgery abroad” revealed that most centers were located in Eastern Europe (26%), South America (14%), and the Far East (11%). Exploring the information provided on the Web sites, we found 37% contained no information regarding procedures. Only 10% of sites contained any information about potential complications. Even less frequently mentioned (4%) were details of aftercare or follow-up procedures.
The authors found that the overwhelming majority of respondents considering plastic surgery would also consider seeking cosmetic surgical treatment abroad. The Internet sites that appear most prominently in an online search contained a distinct lack of information for potential patients, particularly with regard to complications and aftercare. There is, therefore, a need for improved public awareness and education about the considerations inherent in medical tourism. The introduction of more stringent regulations for international centers providing such services should also be considered to help safeguard patients.