My Phoenix plastic surgery patients sometimes ask me if it is a bad idea to go to other countries to have their procedure performed at a lower cost. In my opinion, surgery is serious business, and bargain hunting should not be one’s priority when it comes to issues of health, surgical quality and safety.
There are certainly some very talented surgeons in Mexico, South America and elsewhere, but the degree of oversight and regulations pales in comparison to the U.S. Surgery is not just about the plastic surgeon – for Scottsdale residents, it is also about the ancillary staff, as well as accreditation, medications and devices used during surgery. In the U.S., very stringent rules and regulations are in place to protect patient safety. The FDA provides important oversight to ensure that medications and products used during surgery have been studied and tested properly.
Recently in the news, there have been reports of concern with a particular type of implant manufactured in France by a now-defunct company called Poly Implants Prothèses (PIP). In 2006, I was involved in a study demonstrating the high deflation rate of saline implants produced by PIP, which was published in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the most prestigious journal for plastic surgeons. In this article, we advised that the deflation rate with these implants was much higher than with saline implants produced by Mentor® and Allergan, the U.S. implant manufacturers.
More recently, it has come to light that the silicone implants produced by this company were made using industrial-grade rather than medical-grade silicone. Of course, this cut the cost on implants significantly, but it also cut major corners on safety. Now, many women are reporting concerns with their implants and tens of thousands of women all over the world may be advised to have these implants removed and exchanged.
Thankfully, because the FDA never approved these implants, the only American women who have to worry are those who travelled abroad for surgery and received PIP silicone implants. Unlike Mentor and Allergan silicone implants, which are considered the most studied medical devices in medical history, PIP implants did not have to undergo rigorous safety screening by the FDA. As a result, patients will have to endure extra surgery to deal with the failure of PIP to produce a quality medical product.
This situation should serve as a warning to patients: Cutting costs up front may end up costing more in the long run. Although surgery in the U.S. is generally more expensive than in other countries, this cost covers more than surgery alone. It covers additional safety and quality and, ultimately for patients, peace of mind.