Post-surgery infection is a common problem with cosmetic procedures
Stars and Stripes March 12, 2006
CAMP LESTER, Okinawa Traveling to the Philippines Thailand and elsewhere in Asia for cosmetic surgery can save you money, sure, but doctors at Pacific U.S. military bases want patients to know that with the savings come some risks.
General surgeons at U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa have said they have seen an increase recently in the number of patients, all women, who seek care for complications after cosmetic surgeries in the Philippines and Thailand. The hospital will attend to emergency issues, the surgeons say, but if a patient doesn’t like the end result of her cosmetic surgery, she’s out of luck.
“If you don’t like your scar, or how your breast implant looks, we’re not going to take care of it,” said general surgeon Lt. Cmdr. Clifford Smith, who since has transferred to U.S. Naval Hospital Pensacola, Fla. “Option A is to go back where you had it done, or option B is to go find someone stateside.”
Smith and fellow general surgeon Lt. Cmdr. Ron Tesoriero said most of the complications they see arise because a patient has not stayed and followed up with the doctor who performed the surgery.
The surgeons said they most commonly see infections — hematomas — which are a common side effect of surgery.
Janet Molina, the spouse of an Air Force on Kadena Air Base, traveled from Okinawa to the Philippines last year for a “tummy tuck,” breast implants, upper and lower eyelifts and a botox treatment. She had the surgery on April 13 and was back on Okinawa on April 25. Two days later, she was in the naval hospital having surgery to clean out a bad infection and remained in the hospital for some time hooked to a “wound vacuum” to help drain fluid.
Molina said she is totally happy with her cosmetic surgeon, blaming her complications instead on having too much work done at once.
“I should have known better; I’m a slow healer,” said Molina, who said she knew she would never be able to afford the same procedures in the States. “If I could do it all over, I wouldn’t have the tummy tuck, but I would do everything else.”
Molina heard about her doctor through a friend and said she thoroughly researched his background and talked to a lot of women who had used him.
She made a trip back to see the same doctor last November for a checkup and to see about a possible scar revision from the large scar she has from the hematoma.
For those thinking about cosmetic surgery in another country, Molina, who went from a size 14/16 to a size 9, has this advice: “Allow yourself enough time to stay there and heal.”
Both Smith and Tesoriero said treating cases like Molina’s can be taxing.
“This is the dilemma that we’re being asked to deal with … things that we’re not really trained to do,” Tesoriero said.
The surgeons also said you run a risk when traveling to a foreign country for operations.
“You just don’t know what you’re going to get,” Tesoriero said. “You don’t know what the person’s credentials are.”
If someone is set on having plastic surgery, the surgeons have simple suggestions.
“Wait until you get back to the States where you will be in the same place for at least six months for follow up,” Tesoriero said.
Smith added: “Save your money, if you want it that bad, and research the person who is going to operate on you. Just like a used car, you can save about $4,000, but this isn’t your car; this is your body.”