Out of town tummy tuck can be safely done as long as the patient practices due diligence, which all boils down to choosing a board-certified plastic surgeon. In the US, the only board-certifying body recognized by health authorities is the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS).
Aside from board certification, “judicious” doctor selection should also include his experience. A good rule of thumb is to find a surgeon who performs over a hundred tummy tuck procedures every year and a long list of before-and-after photos of his actual patients to back it up.
Take note that body contouring plastic surgery encompasses many procedures; hence, a surgeon great at breast augmentation may not always be the perfect choice for someone seeking tummy tuck.
Out of town tummy tuck requires advance planning. In general, lab screening (e.g., blood and urine exam) is generally conducted 10-14 days before surgery to rule out chronic medical condition and risk factors (use of tobacco and aspirin and aspirin-like products) that can impede healing or optimal results.
Lab screening might be done in the patient’s state (or country) or in the surgeon’s vicinity.
Out of town patients will be given preliminary information by the surgeon’s staff. This typically includes the estimated cost, travel arrangements, recovery facility, ideal length of stay, and list of preparations (e.g., foods, drinks, and drugs to avoid).
Should they find the “arrangements” reasonable, they may speak with their surgeons via Skype, or they may arrive a few days before their scheduled surgery to discuss the surgical plans and their cosmetic goals and expectations with their doctors.
Meanwhile, world-renowned plastic surgeon Dr. Tarick Smiley typically requires his patients to stay within the vicinity for about two weeks to make follow-up visit convenient. Furthermore, long travels (by car or plane) are best postponed for at least 10 days to prevent deep vein thrombosis, a serious complication in which blood clots form in a vein located deep inside the body (usually affecting the pelvis, arms, or legs).
Ideally, the surgeon’s staff should help out of town tummy tuck patients arrange their travels, especially in terms of booking a hotel room and finding an airport shuttle service. The goal is to make the whole experience less stressful and so they can focus more on their recovery and ultimately put their mind at ease.
In the ideal scenario, out of town patients should be accompanied by at least one relative or friend to help them move around during the first few days postop. If this is not possible, the clinic staff may recommend a private nurse or they might be required to stay at a hospital or recovery facility until they can walk without risk of fainting, and their pain has dissipated significantly.
Travel for tummy tuck requires advance planning to avoid risk of complications, particularly relating to deep vein thrombosis. The problem with long travels (by plane or car) is the prolonged immobility, which could lead to blood clot in legs and more serious problems such as pulmonary embolism.
Inland Empire plastic surgery experts explain the basic guidelines to make travel for tummy tuck a safe endeavor.
- Wait at least a month before traveling by plane.
Many surgeons suggest postponing long flights for at least four weeks to avoid blood clots. Furthermore, staying within the immediate vicinity of the doctor’s office will allow him to monitor and ensure that his patient is healing nicely.
- Possible use of low-dose blood thinner.
Should the patient need to travel by plane sooner than ideal, some doctors recommend a low dose of blood thinner (aspirin) to reduce risk of deep vein thrombosis. “Waiting” nonetheless remains to be the best option.
- Perform light activities such as walking.
Most out of town patients can travel by car around two weeks postop. However, certain precautions are needed to prevent or at least reduce the risk of deep vein thrombosis. The general rule of thumb is to take several stopovers to stretch and walk around.
Good blood circulation through light exercise is one of the best defenses to prevent deep vein thrombosis. Furthermore, it can minimize the effects of narcotic painkillers such as constipation and lethargy.
- A capable adult must always accompany the patient.
Travel by plane means rushing from one airport to the next with a heavy luggage in tow. It is important to avoid strenuous activities, bending from the waist, and over exertion for 3-4 weeks to prevent complications. For this reason, it always makes a sense to bring a friend or family member along when traveling for plastic surgery.
Also, driving is inadvisable when under narcotic painkillers, which cause poor coordination and drowsiness. Just to be safe, patients must have someone to drive them home.
- The patient should build good rapport with a local primary care physician.
Travel for tummy tuck requires advance planning, which typically includes finding a local primary care physician ideally before to the operation. He may be the one to order a pre-op physical exam and fax its results to the plastic surgeon to rule out any medical condition.
The local primary care doctor will also monitor the patient for up to 2-3 months to ensure the latter is healing nicely.
Out of town breast augmentation requires advance planning to avoid complications and to achieve optimal results from the surgery. In general, patients are required to stay within the vicinity 3-4 days postop for follow-up visits to ensure that they are healing nicely.
Patient safety always starts with pre-op testing to rule out medical conditions or any other factors that can lead to increased risk of complications. For out of town patients, their local primary care doctor may order lab work whose results are faxed to the plastic surgeon who will conduct the surgery. With this “arrangement,” they can arrive as early as 2-3 days prior to the operation for an in-person consultation.
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Ideally, the lab tests are performed not later than 10 days before surgery.
Aside from lab tests, out of town patients might also be required to fax results from breast MRI and possibly mammogram as well.
Even before the actual meet-up, there should be good rapport between the patient and the surgeon performing the out of town breast augmentation. Skype or video online chat is particularly helpful to allow both parties understand each other’s goal.
Meanwhile, it is important to avoid tobacco products, aspirin, ibuprofen, and medications and supplements known to increase bleeding for at least three weeks. The goal is to achieve one’s optimal health and thus minimize risk of healing problems and other complications.
Complete smoking cessation is particularly critical because it is closely tied to increased risk of capsular contracture in which the normally thin scar capsule around an implant inadvertently thickens, leading to painful, deformed breasts that require a revision surgery.
Factors linked to increased bleeding and hematoma (i.e., clotted blood beneath the skin or within the implant pocket) such as use of aspirin and aspirin-like products and hypertension must also be avoided and “controlled” well in advance of the surgery to reduce the capsular contracture rate.
After surgery, most patients are instructed to stay within the vicinity for at least three days (or sometimes even longer) for follow-up visits. After this period, most can travel by plane or car provided that a friend or family member will accompany them.
During the initial healing stage, patients should avoid heavy lifting (that’s why someone else should carry their luggage) and rigorous activities to prevent healing problems. Furthermore, they should never drive themselves when taking narcotic painkillers because these can cause poor coordination and lethargy.
In Beverly Hills plastic surgery, many doctors continue to monitor their patients up to one year, with some even permitting online video chat should their patients find it inconvenient to travel long distances just for a follow-up visit (provided there is no major concern).
Plastic surgery travel packages are not supposed to include vacation-related activities to ensure proper healing, although some “beauty” clinics are offering such “perks” to entice more patients, according to the California Surgical Institute.
While choosing a local surgeon provides many benefits such as convenient follow-up visits, some patients may need to travel long distances (abroad or interstate) to consult with plastic surgeons who are known for their expertise and impressive safety track record and high patient satisfaction rate.
On the other hand, traveling long distances for plastic surgery is unreasonable if the only goal is to have a “cheap” procedure. First and foremost, a prudent patient must ensure that her cosmetic surgeon is “properly” board certified. In the US, The American Board of Plastic Surgery is considered the “gold standard” despite the proliferation of many certifying bodies.
Dr. Tarick Smiley, one of the leading Beverly Hills plastic surgeons who focuses on facial rejuvenation and body contouring procedures, shares his tips when considering plastic surgery travel packages.
- Reputable and properly board certified plastic surgeon
The plastic surgeon should be a member of a reputable board certifying body and has extensive experience, i.e., more than 10 years, in the sought procedure.
- The facilities should offer state-of-the-art equipment
Patient safety is the most important aspect of plastic surgery. First and foremost, the facilities (operating and recovery room) must be staffed by qualified medical practitioners and are fully equipped for emergency situations.
It is important to note that many patients are required to stay 1-2 nights in recovery rooms to make sure that they are healing properly.
Ideally, out of town patients must stay within the vicinity for at least 7-10 days even if they are back on their feet. During the initial healing period, long travels, either by plane or car, must be avoided due to increased risk of deep vein thrombosis or blood clotting in legs.
Hotel stay is often included in plastic surgery travel packages, with some patients given the option to have their own private-duty nurse.
- No vacation-related activities
A prudent patient should stay away from beauty clinics that market cosmetic surgery as vacations. First and foremost, this “practice” can give an impression that surgical enhancement is something to be taken lightly; this can also lead to increased risk of complications such as healing problems.
- Transportation and other conveniences
Some packages include transportation, meals for the entire duration of stay, and other conveniences so the patients can focus on their recovery.
Travel and plastic surgery must only be attempted if the procedure is performed by a qualified surgeon on someone who has realistic goals and expectations. Meanwhile, it should not be combined with leisure activities or anything that will compromise healing.
Experts at the California Surgical Institute provide tips for patients who consider travelling long distances for plastic surgery.
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- A prudent patient should have a sound reason for traveling for plastic surgery.
If the goal is to get cheap plastic surgery, medical tourism could rear its ugly head. Take note that a price that is way below the average is generally considered a dubious practice since it is necessary to cut cost on patient safety to make sure that the surgeon can still make a profit.
The only reason to combine travel and plastic surgery is when the patient feels that there is no qualified local doctor who can give her the best possible result.
- Ask for insurance program, if there is any.
Some surgeons participate in insurance programs, which cover the cost of revisions in the event that they are needed. Due to the strict membership requirements of issuers, it may be safe to assume that their “partner” doctors have good reputation and high patient rate satisfaction.
- Make sure that the surgical setting is certified or accredited.
The surgical setting should be a hospital or outpatient surgery center that is licensed or accredited by health authorities.
Accredited surgical facilities provide round-the-clock care by licensed staff members, practice proper sanitation, and provide the necessary equipment and drugs used in the event of complications.
- Make sure the surgeon is board certified and highly qualified.
The doctor who will perform the surgery should be “appropriately” board certified after completing his residency and fellowship program, instead of being just certified after his weeklong training.
Should the surgery is performed in the US, the general rule of thumb is to choose a plastic surgeon who is a member of the American Board of Plastic Surgery.
- A plastic surgery package that includes leisure activities and exotic places is a dubious practice.
With the growing popularity of medical tourism, some plastic surgery packages include trips to exotic places and tropical getaways. However, this is a trend that is frowned upon by board-certified plastic surgeons because of the increased risk of infection, poor healing and scarring, and botched results.
Sun exposure right after surgery is detrimental to healing since the UV rays break down the collagen, which is the skin’s main building block.
Traveling for plastic surgery has its own benefits especially if there is a valid reason—e.g., you want the expertise of a reputable surgeon who happens to live far away from your place.
But if you travel for plastic surgery solely to avail a low-cost service, it might prevent you to look at the “bigger picture.” Take note that your primary goal is to find a qualified plastic surgeon who knows how to avoid the complications and give you results that look natural.
Dr. Tarick Smaili, one of the leading Orange County plastic surgery experts, shares his tips on how to have a pleasant experience when traveling for plastic surgery.
- Lots of planning and communication. While it is true that the distance is an issue, good rapport and open communication with your plastic surgeon can offset such challenge.
The general rule of thumb is to find someone you feel comfortable with and confident in his technical and artistic skills. For this reason, you may want to visit his websites and check his before-and-after photos online to assess his level of professionalism and “core values” that can help him deliver impressive results.
- Someone to help you during the initial healing stage. It is a bonus if you have family or friends living within the vicinity. You need a support group to pick you up after surgery and take care of your basic needs during the most crucial phase of your recovery, i.e., a day or two after the operation.
- Postpone travel for five to seven days after plastic surgery involving the body (e.g., breast augmentation and tummy tuck), or longer if your operation involves the face (e.g., facelift and rhinoplasty/nose job).
The idea is to avoid prolonged immobility—i.e., sitting for hours during a flight—because it can predispose you to risk of blood clotting or deep vein thrombosis in the legs that can travel up to the lungs and lead to more serious complications such as pulmonary embolism.
- Don’t combine plastic surgery and vacation. Despite the proliferation of surgical vacation package, cosmetic surgery should be treated as a major surgery that involves a “quiet time” to recuperate. Thus you should plan your tropical holiday at a different time.
- Collect all your medical records before leaving. For example, you should document the type of breast implants used during breast augmentation, the surgical technique, the attending surgeon’s name, the facilities, etc. Such info will help your local doctor in case that you have postop concerns at home.