Thinking about getting a boob job in Thailand?
With the cosmetic procedure industry at an all-time high in Australia - Choice estimates that the business is making a billion dollars annually - wait lists and costs are blowing out locally. So around 15,000 Australians a year are opting to go overseas for their work, in order to reduce the price of expensive elective surgery.
But is medical tourism a good idea?
How popular is Thailand as a destination to receive breast implants?
Situated in the heart of Asia and only 9 hours by plane from Sydney, Thailand has become extremely popular for cosmetic procedures due to its ability to offer lower costs and package deals that can turn surgery into a resort holiday.
Millions of visitors from all over the world visit to receive plastic surgeries such as a mummy makeover in Thailand and are choosing to have breast implants in Thailand.
“It’s changing the landscape in terms of price; in any facet of our life people want value for money,” Sydney plastic surgeon Dr Joseph Rizk tells News.com.
Where in Thailand can you go for augmentation procedures?
The hub of cosmetic tourism in Thailand is Bangkok but there are also options in the resort island of Phuket.
Many Thai medical facilities offer breast lift procedures and can be found through a quick internet search, though it is hard to know how reputable they are. Some websites we found are Medigo, Medical Departures and Plastic Surgery Phuket.
Medigo reports clinics in Bangkok, such as Sikarin Hospital and B. Care Medical Centre, as well as Bangpakok 9 International Hospital, as great centres for breast implants, based on reviews.
Meanwhile Medical Departures works with the following clinics in Bangkok: Yanhee Hospital, Asia Cosmetic Hospital, Bangkok Hospital Samui, La Grace Clinic and Aime Clinic.
One destination that looks very swish for medical tourism in Bumrungrad International Hospital.
Again, there are many plastic surgeons with the appropriate expertise and accreditation to perform breast augmentation in Thailand and some will have equivalent experience to those in Australia.
However, it is very important to research clinics and surgeons to make sure they are highly skilled with the procedure and don't just have a glossy website or marketing campaign.
How much does it cost? Are there packages?
The cost of breast implants in Thailand starts at around $AU4000 for just the surgery but the price varies based on the type and placement of the implant, as well as the location and prestige of the facility.
Many clinics in Thailand offer packages that include surgery, hotel accommodation for recovery after the procedure, airport and hospital transfers, a translator and they can even organise return flights.
One company, Lotus Medical International, advertise breast implants Thailand packages on their website including Breast Augmentation Packages from $5,400 which include consultation, professional surgery, return flights to Phuket and 6 night stay in a hotel as well as Breast Lift With Implants Packages starting at $8,600 and including similar benefits as well as 9 nights in a hotel.
While all that might sound tempting, the Australian Society for Plastic Surgeons warns against combining plastic surgery with a beach retreat, saying, "Post-operative care is vital to the recovery process and should not be combined with a holiday. Sitting by the pool, drinking cocktails and snorkelling does not qualify as post-operative care."
How do costs compare to Australian prices?
Dr John Flynn, the chief censor for the ACCS ( Australasian College of Cosmetic Surgery) tells Choice, "There is no way that in Australia we can match the cost of surgery in Thailand or somewhere similar. In many cases it's half the cost."
Medi Makeover compiled a list of costs for breast augmentation overseas compared to Australia. Including 7 nights accommodation, return airfares and transfers in their surgery package, the Medi Makeover cost came to $5,570 compared to just the price of surgery alone in Australia, which can be up to $17,000.
Other cosmetic procedures are also cheaper, with mummy makeovers in Thailand costing $14,000 to $15,000 and rhinoplasty from $6000, compared to Australia’s $35,000 and between $15,000 to $20,000, respectively.
However, Dr Flynn also mentions that, “There's been many cases where costs are not that much different. And it's surprising that people would save themselves [an amount] as small as a 20% improvement in price as a trade-off for the accompanying risk profile.”
Make sure wherever you go, that when you are comparing prices you are quoted the full cost of everything involved, from hospital accomodation to anaesthetist charges.
One example, often Australian plastic surgeons will charge you a consultation fee, perhaps around $500, just to discuss your options, though this charge is usually redeemable against costs if you go ahead with surgery.
With overseas surgeries, the consultation fee is usually included in the package cost, but check that the consultation will actually be with the surgeon, and not just with a nurse or administrator.
What should you look for when booking breast implants in Thailand?
The Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons stresses that "Patients need to do their homework and make sure the person performing the procedure is properly qualified and accredited. It is also important to make sure that the surgery will take place in an accredited facility that is to the standards set by the Australian Day Surgery Council."
One thing to look out for is that the doctor is actually an accredited plastic surgeon, a speciality that has to be officially trained for, and not just a "cosmetic" surgeon, a title which any ordinary doctor can call themselves, even with no formal training in plastic surgery procedures.
In the consultation, they should give you a guide to what you should look like before and after the surgery, and outline of how the procedure will be done and what the follow-up care will be like.
The ASPS gives a checklist of what to consider when deciding the best place for international surgery, including
• making sure the surgeon is a member of the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS)
• the medical standards of the facility and the implants are at least as good as in Australia
• a plan for what happens if things go wrong.
What concerns should be considered when getting a boob job in Thailand?
Although the idea of a cheaper procedure, no waiting lists and recovering poolside definitely sounds ideal, there are risks involved with getting breast implants done in Thailand.
Dr Anthony Kane, President of the ASPS (Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons), has said of these risks, "Over the last few years we've seen an increasing number of people arrive as outpatients or at emergency departments with complications often related to breast implants, atypical infections… bad things like losing both nipples."
Other medical concerns are faulty implants, the impact of tropical climate and pools on infection risks and post-surgery complications such as blood clots from restricted movement that may arise on the flight home.
The International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeries says, "Common vacation activities like swimming, sunbathing and drinking alcohol are typically not recommended after surgery. Lifting heavy bags and standing or walking for long periods of time are other vacation-related activities you may need to avoid."
Which all kind of takes the fun out of going under the knife in a resort location.
Courtney developed a post-operative infection and, after returning to Australia, was put in hospital as “My liver, my kidneys, my heart and my brain started to shut down.” The effects have been long-term with Courtney unable to breastfeed her baby.
However, there are risks involved with all operations no matter where they are done, so it's best to do your homework when choosing where to have your surgery and who should do it and to avoid complications, make sure to follow doctor's orders after the procedure.
Are there guarantees? What will you need to do if something goes wrong?
Most reputable clinics should offer a review of your procedure and guarantees to ensure that in the event that something does go wrong, action will be taken to fix the issue.
Make sure before the surgery you know who to contact in the clinic in the event something does happen, and what policies they have in place to cover complications.
If things do go wrong with overseas surgeries, and you haven't checked the guarantee policy, the costs of reviewing the procedure back in Australia can outweigh any savings, which is another concern to bear in mind when choosing to have breast augmentation in Thailand.