10 Reasons Travelling Outside the UK for a Hair Transplant Is a Bad Idea
27 Aug | 2019
For many in the UK who want hair transplant surgery, package deals offering luxury vacations on top of the procedure price seem too good to be true. How can a luxurious vacation and surgery cost less than just the surgery at home? Unfortunately, buying these once in a lifetime deals can leave you with scars you keep for the rest of your life. Saving a few pounds and flying abroad for a surgery could have irreversible consequences for your health.
Here are 10 things to consider before booking a hair transplant surgery outside the UK:
Disfiguring results and major complications are more common
Cheaper surgeries in countries like Turkey and India have a much higher rate of dissatisfying results compared to the UK because of the prevalence of illicit ‘black market’ clinics. While reputable surgeons exist around the world, popular destinations for budget surgery have far higher numbers of sub-par clinics. These problematic businesses get patients from overwhelming marketing of vague (‘internationally recognised’) or false claims (‘no scarring’ ‘no pain’) on Google as well as floods of fake five star reviews to project an image of professionalism and popularity.
The approach to procedures is also riskier in medical tourism hotspots. Hair transplant surgery is an intensive and technically challenging procedure. Surgeons or nurse practitioners in less regulated countries may take risks and extract or implant far too many grafts at a time. This can lead to disfiguring scars and even necrosis of the scalp as the large amount of trauma in a small space kills off the surrounding healthy scalp by disrupting its blood supply. Overharvesting of donor areas can mean there is no possibility to return your scalp or hair density to the way it was before surgery. Complications like graft infection or necrosis can leave major scars which remain permanently bald once healed (called scarring alopecia). When it comes down to it, you are less likely to have disfiguring results or major complications in the UK because strict regulation weeds out the dangerous or misleading practitioners far more efficiently.
Flying before or after surgery is risky
Both surgery and flying increase the risk of developing dangerous blood clots in the legs (deep vein thrombosis) and the lungs (pulmonary embolism). For this reason, surgeons generally advise patients avoid flying shortly before and after surgery. However, medical tourism usually involves a patient arriving only a day or so before surgery which just increases the risk of complications.
Also keep in mind the longer the flight to and from the destination, the more risk is involved because blood clots form when you do not move for extended periods of time. This is why your surgeon may ask you to wait longer if you have to take a long-haul flight (longer than 6 hours) than a short-haul one (less than 3 hours). Either way, your healing process and general comfort are much easier to control and ensure if you live in the same country as your surgeon.
Surgical certification is different
In the UK, the high standard of plastic surgeons is set by regulatory bodies such as BAAPS, BAPRAS, and the GMC. While other countries may also have regulatory bodies, they use different systems and may have different standards. As a result, it can be difficult to know the level of experience and qualification of a surgeon abroad especially if you are not fluent in the language and unable to do thorough research yourself. If you do decide to have hair transplant surgery abroad, ensure you check international medical boards or organisations to see if your surgeon has truly been certified (which means they are committed to superb patient care as well as staying up to date with the latest innovations). If you cannot find any information about your surgeon’s membership to any internationally recognised medical board, we recommend you cancel the procedure and find another option.
Surgical facility certification is different
Your surgeon abroad may claim their surgery center is ‘certified’ and ‘internationally recognised’ but statements like this can be misleading. The location of your treatment may not be recognized by the medical association in that country, or any of the leading aesthetic surgery associations internationally. If you rely only on your surgeon or their team to provide you with information, you may be putting yourself at risk. If you do decide to go abroad for surgery, make sure you check accredited legitimate medical boards and organisations focused on aesthetic plastic surgery for evidence of the facility where your surgery will take place. If your surgery center does not appear on these lists, we recommend you cancel and find another option.
Your health is more important than a holiday
Medical tourism is often marketed with holiday packaging, meaning the cost is inclusive of the surgery, travel, and lodging at a glamorous hotel or resort for a short time before and/or after the procedure. While this may seem appealing, it’s vital to take your surgery seriously. Surgery should never be considered a reason to go on an extravagant holiday. Modern hair transplant surgery may be less invasive than previous methods but it is still surgery and there is necessary recovery time involved. While you may not require a hospital stay after a hair transplant surgery, you will need lots of calm rest in the days directly after as the healing process begins. There will be discomfort, swelling, and possibly even bleeding, as well as sleeping slightly upright for at least a night or two. Having hundreds if not thousands of small open wounds on your head means you will not be able to take part in any exciting holiday activities that may be advertised to you as a perk of booking a surgery package abroad. It may not be fun, but it’s the truth.
Travel costs take money away from your treatment price
Package deals on travel, accommodation, and surgery seem like a great deal when comparing sticker prices to hair transplant surgery in the UK. However the cost breakdown of deals like this are somewhat concerning. The cost of travel and accommodation take money away from the total cost of your surgery. While surgery abroad can absolutely be safe and performed by a board-certified surgical expert, the regulations are not as closely monitored and enforced in countries popular for medical tourism. Weak regulation leads to people entering the market that are only motivated by profit, not patient care. This floods the market with clinics constantly vying for the more attractive price even if it means they can’t afford to hire specialists. This competition for low prices also puts pressure on the reputable surgeons to do more procedures at lower prices, and when it comes to technical surgeries like hair transplants, maximising volume does not necessarily benefit results. Putting any travel expenses towards surgery closer to home also ensures if you have any problems at any point during treatment, you are saving yourself a flight or having to find another doctor.
Sneaky marketing may mean you end up in a ‘black market’ clinic
When comparing treatment options for surgery in another country, the only resources you may have are the internet and Google Translate. Clinics in popular medical tourism countries like Turkey and India are aware of this and have prepared accordingly. Using online marketing techniques, search results can be all but bought. Vague accreditations like ‘leading facility’ or ‘world experts’ and incredibly misleading claims like ‘no scars’ and ‘no pain’ attempt to lure unsuspecting patients. Black market clinics work like assembly lines, with up to 60 hair transplant procedures in progress at once by nurses or technicians and one surgeon ‘supervising’. Even worse, these clinics will do surgery on anyone that pays, whereas a legitimate plastic surgeon would consider all the factors that make someone a good candidate for hair transplant surgery, and operate on only one patient at a time.
Botched results are more common than you may thin
Even if you manage to find an accredited surgeon working at a reputable clinic with positive reviews, there is still a chance your results could be less than impressive. At that point, another corrective hair transplant surgery is likely your only option (as long as your donor hair has not been over-harvested which can produce some tragic permanent results). While broad statistics about unsatisfying results from hair transplant surgery performed abroad to not exist (many clinics make patients sign documents barring them from ever speaking negatively online about their treatment), surgeons are seeing the repercussions every day. In the UAE, where hair transplant surgery is extremely popular, some surgeons report anywhere from 25% to 90% of the patients they see have come to them looking for surgery to correct poor results from a previous (low cost) hair transplant. If you do not like the results of a hair transplant surgery done abroad, any cost savings will go out the window with your corrective procedure.
Difficulty communicating what you want or need
If you are unable to communicate fluently with your surgeon, there is a chance you will be unable to explain your expectations and desired results for your surgery. Medical tourism also usually means you only meet your surgeon once the day before your surgery, meaning you never get a true consultation where you decide with your surgeon if the procedure you want is truly right for your unique needs. Your surgeon or their medical staff may also not be able to clearly explain aftercare and recovery instructions to you if there is a language barrier. Without a translator, your experience could be confusing and alienating. Plus, if anything were to go wrong, seeking support or help from police or hospitals in the country could be exceedingly difficult. In the UK, if you feel you were mistreated or mislead in any way, there are standardised ways to get help and support from medical professionals unrelated to your original surgeon and their staff.
The NHS may not cover any reparative treatment
Of course the NHS provides emergency and life-saving treatments to anyone, including patients with complications from hair transplant surgery abroad. The NHS will not however cover any aesthetic correction or treatment for non-life threatening complications. Again, this faces you with either flying back to your original surgeon to fix any issues or visiting a local surgeon which increases the final cost of surgery.