Sunday, February 8, 2009

Usher's Wife Tameka Foster: Plastic Surgery Complication of Medical Tourism?

Sad story: Access Hollywood has reported that pop music singer Usher has cancelled his pre-Grammy party where he was scheduled to perform because of a serious medical issue involving his wife, Tameka Foster. Foster reportedly underwent elective plastic surgery in Brazil, and has had complications from that. Few know the details of this case yet as it is breaking, but apparently a neurosurgeon from the US is traveling to Brazil to help. This is not a good sign, as it could mean that it may be a serious complication involving the central nervous system (brain or spinal cord), but again, nothing is known of the specifics of this particular situation.

Whatever the unfortunate situation, thoughts and prayers are with the patient and her family in a difficult time.

From a general standpoint, in the past the American Society of Plastic Surgeons has warned of the risks of "medical tourism", which is a odd set of words used to define when a patient from one country such as the United States travels to another country to undergo an elective procedure. Why would anyone choose to do that when the best doctors, nurses, and hospitals, and most advanced and standardized medical care in the world is available in America? I don't have the answer to that, but traveling overseas is usually done for the perceived "benefit" of a discounted price, a theoretical difference in the technique of surgery performance, and the anonymity involved with recovery in a different locale. All of these purported benefits can quickly be wiped out if a complication occurs and the patient is not in their home country.

Different standards of quality control and training of surgeons and staff can also be found overseas. In the case of Usher's wife, one wonders what procedure she may have undergone, as she just had a baby in December and in the vast majority of instances it would be considered too soon to operate on someone from a body contouring standpoint just 1 to 2 months after childbearing (Brazil is known for its cosmetic body contouring and breast surgery). The body is till in hormonal and physiologic flux after pregnancy, mom may still be breast-feeding, and the weight gained during pregnancy is still coming off.

The International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery has listed the following guidelines for medical tourism on its website which are critical:

The key guidelines for plastic surgery travelers:
-What is the surgeon's training?
A gynecologist performing a breast augmentation or a dermatologist doing a face lift are not appropriate choices.
-Is the plastic surgeon certified?
The ISAPS website lists the names and addresses of over 1,600 certified plastic surgeons in 84 countries.
-Is the plastic surgeon certified?
Ask for certification information and who the certifying body is.
-Does your personal health insurance cover you outside your country?
Most health insurance providers do not cover individuals for surgery performed outside their own country. Consider obtaining International Medical Coverage that may be available through your insurance agent.
-What about aftercare?
Patients should stay in the area where the surgery was performed for at least one week, depending on the procedure. Find out in advance where you will stay and if this facility is prepared to care for your post operative needs.
-What about complications?
-What doctor will care for you at home if you have complications and who will pay for secondary or revision procedures?
-Do the key personnel at the surgeon's office speak your language fluently?
If you cannot be easily understood, be prepared for complications.
-With whom are you communicating?
You should be talking directly with the doctor's staff and the doctor. A travel agent should only make travel and accommodations arrangements.
-Is the surgeon a member of recognized national and international societies?
ISAPS membership is by invitation and is granted to applicants only after extensive screening.
-Have you checked for references?
Ask for names and contact information of patients who have recently had a similar procedure and contact them about their experience with the surgeon, their staff, aftercare facilities and post-operative follow up.


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