When 48-year-old Lee Cameron decided to get an elective breast augmentation, she had a bit of sticker shock at her local Melbourne, Australia, plastic surgeon’s office when she was quoted $27,000 for the procedure. So, Cameron did what many men and women have begun doing around the globe: She booked her surgery with a foreign doctor as part of the travel tourism trend, because the Thailand-based doctor said he could do the same procedure Cameron wanted for just $7,000.
“She thought she was getting the deal of a lifetime,” says Dr. Bruce Chau, a plastic surgeon based in Berkeley, Michigan. “But what she got was anything but that.”
Instead of the savings, Cameron got a nasty infection – one that could have cost the Australian her life.
Though the surgical team in Thailand tried to heal Cameron, their attempts were unsuccessful, and Cameron rushed home to Australia before her situation became too dire for her to fly home. She was treated by Melbourne-based plastic surgeon Dr. Olive Perotti when she returned.
“Luckily the patient was able to make it home before her infection worsened,” says Chau. “But she still ended up needing additional surgery. In the end there was no real savings, not to mention the trauma of the situation.”
And that’s not even the worst part. According to Cameron, she wasn’t exactly thrilled with the augmentation itself.
“The patient was unhappy with the nipple placement, and she was essentially brushed off by the doctor in Thailand and told that her breasts would droop because she’s an older woman,” says Chau. “The truth is, yes, breast implants will drop a bit, but it has nothing to do with the patient’s age – and it was certainly disrespectful for them to speak to her the way they did.”
Furthermore, according to Chau, nipple position is unlikely to change when the implant drops.
“It sounds like Ms. Cameron had a breast=lift as well as an augmentation. A breast implant dropping or settling is unlikely to change the positioning of a nipple, especially if it was raised as part of a breast lift,” says Chau.
Cameron, for her part, regrets choosing a foreign surgeon to save money and encourages anyone considering the same type of situation to do their research before booking a surgeon.
“Make sure the surgeon you choose is board-certified, no matter where you end up having your surgery,” says Chau. “Even foreign doctors have professional societies, and some even have accreditation with U.S.-based societies. Doing it any other way is simply not worth the risk.”