You Get What You Pay for: Why Cheap Plastic Surgery Is a Dangerous Thing
- 04 January 2017
- Dr. Mark Broudo
Plastic surgery has rapidly become a viable option for people wanting to improve certain parts of their body.
A quick look at the 2015 statistics released by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons proves this, as it recorded a total of 15.9 million cosmetic procedures done that year in the United States alone. Medical tourism has also brought in $6 million in Florida in 2014, thanks to the ubiquity and cost-effectiveness of plastic surgery in Miami.
But if there is one thing that’s been keeping people from going under the knife, it’s money – or the lack of it. Not everyone is willing to spend $10,000 for a risky liposuction or $900 to Botox their forehead wrinkles. So, if a Miami plastic surgery clinic suddenly offers to do these treatments for half the price, expect some people to immediately pounce on it, no matter what the cost.
A Closer Look at Cheap Plastic Surgery in Miami
Take the case of Elsie Soto, a 32-year-old single mother who underwent liposuction in Florida last 2011. Tired of looking at the perfectly toned bodies parading at her beach town, she decided to look for a cheap plastic surgery clinic that could also give her the body that she desires. After evaluating the costs of a liposuction, she finally committed to a Miami clinic that’s been offering the procedure for just $5,000, all in.
But such a low cost for a treatment that is usually valued between $10,000 and $12,000 comes with a far higher price. Unable to move her legs after her liposuction and fat transfer surgery, she had to be confined to a hospital a couple of days later and receive two blood transfusions. It was later found out that she suffered damage to her sciatic nerve – the largest nerve in the human body running from the lower spine to the feet – that left her with almost $50,000 in medical bills. Talk about trying to save money on surgery.
The moral of the story is simple: cheap plastic surgery does not translate to high-quality plastic surgery. In fact, it just might be a horror story in the making.
The Dangers of Cheap Plastic Surgery in Miami
When you decide to undergo plastic surgery, your budget is one of your most important considerations, especially if you are traveling just to get cheap surgery. However, solely basing your decision on money can have disastrous consequences.
“Even amongst fully qualified and experienced plastic surgeons, there can be a significant price range for a given procedure,” said Dr. William Andrade, a plastic surgeon based in Ontario. “Untrained or unregulated practitioners seek to attract patients based on price alone rather than on quality of results and safety.”
If you are contemplating on limiting your budget for that cosmetic procedure that you’re planning to undergo, take a look at the following risks that you might be subjecting yourself into.
Higher Risk for Complications
Each cosmetic procedure has a lengthy list of possible complications that could arise after surgery. Some risks are common and expected, such as nausea and vomiting because of the anesthesia used in surgery, as well as bruising and swelling on the surgical site that could last for a few weeks.
But some risks are potentially fatal, although often rare. According to a survey based on more than 400,000 operations performed in accredited facilities, the rate of serious complications was less than half of one percent, while the mortality rate is only one in 57,000 cases. That means that most plastic surgeries are generally safe, assuming your surgeon has exercised utmost care from assessment to actual procedure to aftercare.
However, statistics show that clinics offering very low discounted rates have incurred more fatalities and complications than those within the normal price range. The Miami cosmetic surgery clinic where Soto had her liposuction, for instance, had a rate of four deaths for every 90,000 procedures, which makes it almost double than what is generally considered acceptable in plastic surgery. In prioritizing budget over quality, the risks for complications in plastic surgery heighten considerably.
Some of the complications that may happen in every procedure include severe infection, tissue breakdown, and nerve damage. You might also get poor cosmetic outcomes, like permanent scars, asymmetry, and abnormal contours. Worse, life-threatening complications may arise, like pulmonary embolisms.
You might be thinking that you’re getting the deal of a lifetime, but surgical revision and recovery might end up costing you a lot more – and they are not usually covered by your insurance policy.
The reason why many people opt for cheap plastic surgery is that most of these procedures are cosmetic in nature, so insurance policies seldom cover them. But it is also difficult to convince insurance companies to cover revision surgeries, which often become medically necessary after a botched plastic surgery.
According to Tampa-based lawyer Gary Viscio, a lot of red tape is involved when it comes to convincing insurance companies that you need to have revision surgery.
“A request for a revision based upon a failed prior bariatric surgery is going to immediately invoke a response from most insurance providers questioning whether the prior surgery actually failed, or the patient was simply not compliant with the requirements of the first surgery," he said.
It is also important to coordinate properly with the surgeon who did your surgery. You need to submit your pre-operative tests, as well as have a general description of your diet and exercise compliance certified by your surgeon. You have to go through all these grueling steps without assurance that your insurance company will foot your revision surgery bills.
In Soto’s case, the medical bills she incurred after her failed liposuction were not covered by insurance, as the company argued that the procedure performed was elective.
Just like Soto, a lot of patients are attracted with discounted deals from plastic surgery clinic. As a result, these facilities often have more patients than they can handle, resulting in the lack of personal touch when it comes to treating patients.
In the past, every procedure required lengthy consultations with plastic surgeons coupled with trips to the hospital where the surgery will be performed. But as the plastic surgery scene becomes commoditized, consultations are now being done in office-park surgery centers with salespeople who advise patients on what kind of “work” they need and how little it will cost if done in their clinics.
Furthermore, patients are neither sufficiently screened for medical problems not adequately followed-up after their surgery. Some salespeople even go to great lengths to persuade patients to undergo procedures that are often unnecessary. There were even instances when the physician who checked up a patient was not the one who operated on her. The focus has shifted from the patient’s welfare to the business’ revenues.
“They’ve created this kind of fast food courts where people go in, pick from a menu of what they want done, and the physician who meets with them is not necessarily the doctor who operates on them and he’s not the one who follows up with them,” said Spencer Aronfeld, Soto’s lawyer.
That is why it is important to make sure that you only have one main surgeon from consultation down to aftercare. For instance, when you schedule a free consultation with Face + Body Cosmetic Surgery, you will be speaking with a board-certified and highly experienced surgeon, and he will also be the one to perform your chosen treatment.
Most of the time, cosmetic surgery centers that offer discounted prices also add more enticing claims to attract patients. The problem is, many of these claims are untrue and are just mere marketing propaganda.
According to lawyers representing patients with botched cosmetic surgeries, some of the misstated claims of these clinics include low risks, dramatic results, faster recuperation, and minimal pain. With surgeons mostly following a standard procedure for every treatment, all of these claims are just deceiving customers for the sake of higher sales. Knowing what the procedure entails and how it is going to be performed can help you manage your expectations and steer clear of false claims.
In extreme cases, some companies even write their own online testimonials on different websites and pass them off as consumer-generated. Hence, it is important to be vigilant and make sure that the reviews you are reading online really came from genuine former patients. Always look for before and after photos of previous patients so that you have a visual idea of what to expect after surgery.
It can be quite tricky to find a board-certified surgeon in Miami, basically because the state of Florida does not require cosmetic surgeons to obtain specialty certification before they can practice their profession. Other medical tourism destinations also have their own certification standards for plastic surgeons.
But specialty certification is important as this ensures that the surgeon has met the standards and requirements set forth by the specialty board. It is a way of maintaining and improving the quality of medical care in the US. While board certifications do not serve as guarantees, they are still a good gauge of your surgeon’s training, experience, and competence.
Each certifying board has its own set of requirements, but most of them require graduation from an approved medical school, completion of an accredited residency program in the field of plastic surgery, and completion of comprehensive written and oral exams. Each certificate typically expires after 10 years, in which the surgeon is reexamined in the form of written exams.
With the training and experience needed in order to be certified as a Miami plastic surgeon, it is but normal for these surgeons to price their services higher than usual.
“Plastic surgery performed by true plastic and reconstructive surgeons or other properly trained surgeons is more costly for several reasons,” said Dr. Andrade. “Surgeons require a minimum of 13 years to complete their university and surgical training, and the cost of surgery reflects the high cost and length of their training.”
Thus, surgeon qualifications –not price – should be one of your top considerations when assessing your plastic surgery options. It is better to commit to double board-certified surgeons like Face + Body Cosmetic Surgery’s Dr. Nick Masri and Dr. Mark Broudo than to just any other Miami surgeon who hasn’t acquired any board certification.
Lack of Hospital Privileges
Many plastic surgeries in Miami can already be done inside surgery centers, which drastically cuts down the cost of the procedure. This is all good for minimally invasive treatments like Botox and dermal fillers, but it’s a huge disadvantage for those wanting to undergo more comprehensive cosmetic operations, like breast augmentation, tummy tuck, and lower body lift.
As previously mentioned, consultations are now being done in surgery centers rather than hospitals. The problem is, operations are also being done in outpatient surgery centers due to a surgeon’s lack of hospital privileges, which puts the patient safety at risk. There were even cases when local anesthesia was used instead of general anesthesia, which made the whole situation traumatic for the patient who was not fully asleep during the procedure.
In Soto’s case, her liposuction was done in a clinic, so she was left to fend for herself in the emergency room once complications started to arise. The nurse who took care of her in the clinic even took her to her own house instead of the hospital when she felt that she couldn’t move her legs after surgery. Soto later claimed that she regretted her decision not to push for a hospital operation.
Another thing that cuts down the cost of treatment is the use of substandard materials, like breast implants. If the products used are not of high quality, then you are putting yourself at risk for infections, implant rupture, and other complications that could have been avoided had you chosen to just pay a higher price for your procedure.
Back in 2012, a French company selling breast implants was placed in the middle of a controversy when it was found that their implants were made using industrial-grade materials, which has more contaminants than the medical-grade gel they should have used. In fact, the cheap silicone is meant to be used for mattresses and not for anything that will be inserted in the body. The move was allegedly done to cut costs and boost profits. It was eventually banned, but some surgeons still use it for their discounted surgeries.
Cosmetic surgeries always have an emotional aspect to it, and it becomes all too real when a botched surgery happens. Given all the risks that you’re exposed to when you opt for cheap plastic surgery, you become more susceptible to depression, brought about by the stress of surgery, lack of sleep, and difficult recuperation.
The feeling of depression starts during the healing process, when you’re still battling against pain, fatigue, and swelling. But instead of feeling better as you start seeing results, feelings of disappointment continue to dig deeper as you realize that you were better off before your surgery than you are today. It might lead you to seek more treatments, which can make you look either better or worse.
The judgment of other people can also affect you. It can destroy your social life and shatter whatever is left of your confidence to shreds.
Taking the Safe Road to Plastic Surgery
With all the dangers posed by cheap cosmetic surgery, it is important to be able to look beyond the bargain rates that Miami plastic surgery clinics are flaunting. Take your budget off your mind for the meantime and follow these tips to make sure that you are not getting duped by your selected cosmetic surgery center.
- Get a consultation with your surgeon. When you schedule an initial consult with your chosen plastic surgery clinic, make sure that you are meeting with your surgeon, not a marketing representative or salesperson. Only a doctor can properly assess your readiness and qualifications for plastic surgery.
- Ask the right questions. Don’t be afraid to scrutinize your surgeon during your consultation just to make sure that he is the right man for the job. Ask him questions about your surgery, his credentials, and his experience. Be careful about the certifications he presents you, as the American Board of Plastic Surgery and the American Board of Surgery are the only ones that are truly meaningful. Ask if your surgery can be performed in a reputable hospital. You should also ask to see before and after photos of his previous surgeries and not just rely on online reviews and recommendations from other people.
- Learn as much as you can about your treatment. If you understand what to expect before, during, and after the procedure, then you can cross-check what you know during your consultation. Don’t be fooled by promises of painless treatments and fast recovery, as every surgery is considered a medical procedure that has real risks and downtime.
- Manage your expectations. Even the best surgeons cannot give you the perfect face, boobs, or booty. Remember to be realistic about your procedure and discuss the outcome with your surgeon. It is better to commit to a surgeon who makes no guarantees rather than someone who promises everything to be perfect.
- Don’t rush. A cosmetic procedure can have a huge impact on your life. Take time in researching and evaluating your options.
When deciding which plastic surgery clinic to choose, one of the Miami clinics that you can consider is Face + Body Cosmetic Surgery. It boasts of board-certified and reputable surgeons like Dr. Nick Masri and Dr. Mark Broudo. Schedule a Free Consultation with one of them to discuss your concerns regarding medical tourism.