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American Association of Plastic Surgeons

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Cosmetic Surgery Tourism: A Single Academic Center's Experience During The Covid-19 Pandemic
Ramon L. Zapata-Sirvent, MD FACS, Robert P. Duggan, BS, John Hamati, MD, Pablo L. Padilla, MD, Annalisa Lopez, MD, Linda G. Phillips, MD.
University of Texas Medical Branch, Galverston, TX, USA.

PURPOSE: Cosmetic surgery tourism is a burgeoning field, attracting patients with seemingly financially viable options for obtaining their desired procedures. Traveling for elective surgeries during the COVID-19 pandemic adds another layer of complexity where patients return home and utilize strained healthcare resources. We report our experience with complications following cosmetic surgery tourism during the COVID-19 pandemic
METHODS: Cosmetic surgery tourism patient demographics and outcomes were reviewed between March 2020 and September 2021 at our institution.
RESULTS: We identified fourteen female patients, averaging 36.4 years of age. All patients underwent body contouring procedures, most commonly abdominoplasty (12/14), frequently combined with liposuction or breast augmentation. On average, patients presented 39.4 days after their operation and travelled 69.6 miles to our facilities. All patients utilized Emergency Department resources, and 13/14 patients were admitted, resulting in 66 total hospital days, averaging 5.1 days per admission. Nine required an additional procedure, including two who returned to the operating room. Eight patients traveled internationally for surgery, six to Mexico and two to the Dominican Republic. Domestically, Miami, Florida was the most popular destination (5/14).
CONCLUSION: Surprisingly, cosmetic surgery tourism continued unabated during the COVID-19 pandemic. After developing a complication, patients frequently utilized emergency department resources and often were treated by non-surgeons before arriving at our institution. Surgical tourism continues to place the onus of finding appropriate postoperative care on patients, with their surgeon some hundreds of miles away. Additionally, surgical tourism during a pandemic may confound healthcare resource utilization strategies.


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