Royal Belgian Society

"Surgical tourism"

- This new trend has grown for some years now with the advent of new information technologies and the democratization of flights. We see a clear increase in "cosmetic travel” offers in some countries in Africa, Eastern Europe or Asia at ‘competitive’ prices. These trips are usually presented by flashy advertising campaigns, selling care in heavenly places offered at "all inclusive" type great rates.

- The RBSPS clearly acknowledges that there are excellent medical teams in almost all regions of the globe but one should keep in mind some elementary concepts of caution :


- The RBSPS recalls a preoperative direct consultation with the surgeon who must personally perform the procedure is essential. It includes, as with any pre-operative consultation, regardless of the surgical discipline, a full interview, physical examination and a detailed discussion of the possible indications and contraindications, the choice of proposed techniques and their potential complications.

- The preoperative consultation can not be replaced by exchanges of emails or pictures online! Yet it is often suggested by the organizers of these “aesthetic trips", not being able to bring their patient twice to their distant institution.
The sometimes proposed alternative is to perform a preoperative consultation on site, the day before surgery.


- Instead just after preoperative consultation, it is important to allow the patient to think long enough about the consequences of a possible future intervention.

- An initial preoperative consultation on site the day before the intervention is therefore certainly not sufficient.


- If one can probably easily have a view on the qualities of a surgeon, it is quite different for his team and the infrastructure that surrounds him (anesthesiologist, nurses, anesthesia equipment, sterility, ease of hospitalization or resuscitation in case of accident etc ...). Pretty pictures of operating rooms or a welcoming infrastructure on the Internet are of course no guarantee of quality.


- This is probably the biggest pitfall. Every surgeon knows that after any invasive medical procedure, there may be certain contingencies (unexpected side effects) or complications. These may be early or late. The majority of events or complications do not cause long-term problems if they are handled quickly and professionally by the surgical team that performed the surgery. This is obviously only possible if the patient is at a reasonable distance from his surgeon. We are regularly confronted with distressed patients with more or less important poorly treated complications following procedures performed in distant countries.

- These patients feel, with reason, abandoned by their surgical team that can not do much because of the distance. The resulting costs can be significant.


- The RBSPS therefore cautions patients against these practices considered as dangerous.
In any case, patients who would still choose to be operated abroad should ensure, before leaving, they can be followed up by professionals fully aware of the details of the planned intervention.