(LOS ANGELES) — From $20,000 contouring surgery in Poland to facial restructuring in China at a seven-star medical spa, cosmetic surgery services and luxury medical tourism are gaining in popularity across the globe.
With the current tough economy, it can be attractive to look at opportunities to combine a surgery and luxurious vacation as a lower-cost package than a procedure in the United States, medical tourism experts say.
"As new cosmetic and plastic surgeries come out, it’s advantageous for the patient," said Jonathan Edelheit, CEO of the Medical Tourism Association, which counts 100 countries within its organization. "You can have a surgery for the same high quality — but at 50 percent to 90 percent less — and take the vacation you never thought you could afford. It’s a huge trend and the tourism of the future."
All surgeries need to be carefully considered as a serious medical procedure, said Dr. Steven Svehlak, who operates a plastic surgery practice in Los Angeles.
"If you do your homework and take your time to research these doctors and facilities," Svehlak said, "then you will be able to find reputable places to go to. But you need to be extremely careful."
Experts added that one of the big issues to consider when electing for a procedure abroad is making sure patients receive the prescribed battery of follow-up exams in correlation to their cosmetic procedures. For most surgeries, there are a routine number of follow-up appointments that go as far as eight weeks out, along with an appropriate amount of recovery time.
With that warning in hand, here’s a look at five medical procedures and travel packages available for vacationers across the globe:
1. Abdominal Etching in Poland
The surgery works by removing fat from the targeted area and may be followed up by a series of fat-melting injections to the abdomen so that it may appear as though months of strength training have given the patient rock-hard abs.
Patients could combine surgery with an extended tour of Poland, with its scenic mountain landscape, remarkable museums and, of course, if the doctor says they can, a potato vodka tasting.
If Eastern Europe isn’t your ideal vacation spot, the controversial procedure is also sought after in Brazil.
2. The Brazilian Butt Lift
Although the United States still tops the list of countries with the highest number of plastic surgeries, it’s closely followed by Brazil, China, India, Mexico and Japan, according to statistics published by The International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS).
One of the most popular cosmetic surgeries in Brazil is the butt lift, which shapes your curves by injecting unwanted fat from the arms or abdomen and then into the buttocks to create a rounder, more defined rear, said Svehlak.
Once you’ve successfully recovered from your enhancements, a trip to the glorious beaches in a revealing bathing suit is certainly what the doctor ordered.
"Brazil is one of the most well-known places in plastic surgery," said Edelheit. "Being on the beach in Rio or San Paulo and going to the stores and restaurants — it’s the sexiness of a foreign destination, which is so attractive."
3. Surgeries and Safaris in South Africa
Dental work, rhinoplasties and cheek augmentations are just a few of the surgical procedures offered by a few select medical safari companies in South Africa.
As a new form of luxury tourism, a number of medical spas offer cosmetic procedures in luxurious surroundings, followed by a rejuvenating safari vacation complete with game drives, wildlife observation explorations and glamorous vineyard wine tours.
An outfit called "Surgery & Safari" coordinates every detail of your surgery and arranges your recuperation in "an oasis for the senses" safari on Mount Grace in Johannesburg.
4. Facial Restructuring in China
Large eyes, a fine nose and refined profile comprise a look coveted in China, with facial restructuring procedures comprising many of the 2 million surgeries completed in the country this year, The New York Times recently reported. If you choose to tour the Great Wall and undergo any number of transforming facial surgeries, China’s new luxury medical spas offer surgical care with a gourmet meal after your procedure in holistic surroundings.
The influx of these holistic resorts and wellness retreats are quickly becoming a trend, said Edelheit.
"There’s a huge rise in investment in building high-quality resorts, like 7-star resort hotels, designed for the patient experience," Edelheit said. "A patient has the feeling that they’re being pampered, being able to recover in that environment. If you’re in a more natural, happier environment, you’ll recover faster."
5. Eyelid Surgery in Hawaii
Hawaii is considered one of the most beautiful tropical islands in the world, but it’s also a leading destination for those who desire eyelid surgery.
One type of eyelid surgery, often selected by those who believe that their eyes are too small, is accomplished by creating a crease above the lid that opens up the eye and gives it a refreshed appearance, said Svehlak. Only those with a single eyelid fold — in other words, a subgroup of Asians — can have this particular type of procedure done.
But Svehlak said that many older patients undergo a different type of eyelid procedure "to remove loose skin on the eyelid. By trimming the loose skin and tying everything up, you can appear more youthful, more opened." You can elect to undergo surgery in one of Hawaii’s modern medical facilities, which offer luxurious accommodation and a holistic approach to healing.
"We’re seeing more hospitals integrate the medicine with the holistic side, and in the hospital they’ll be giving you massages, aromatherapy, pedicures, spas built in, trends we don’t see here in the [mainland] U.S. — the purposes of which is to have you heal in your spirit as well as physically," said Edelheit.