Sunday, May 22, 2005

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Lipo tourism !! Holiday and faces lifts in Nice France

By Leisa Zigman
NewsChannel 5 Investigative Reporter

KSDK-It's called Lipo-tourism. It's a new trend. Americans travel overseas to go under the knife. These all-inclusive "vacations" offer sun, fun and cosmetic surgery at cut-rate prices.

Some patients said they have come back thrilled with their new bodies and new looks. Others are paying a higher price than they ever imagined.

One woman, who we'll call Susan, went to Mexico hoping to make her surgical dreams come true.

"I went because of the price. I was able to get liposuction, arm lift, and thigh lift all for 3000 dollars," Susan said.

Susan asked we conceal her identity. She said she saved eight thousand dollars by having her surgery just across California's border, in Tijuana.

She said, "These doctors were recommended to me from people I knew who actually had procedures done."

Consider this: a "tummy tuck" in the United States would set you back about seven thousand dollars. In the Dominican Republic it's only two thousand dollars. A face-lift costs about ten thousand dollars but in Malaysia it's a third of the price. Breast augmentation costs seven
thousand dollars but in the Dominican Republic, its only two thousand dollars.

Susan had three doctors working on her. She was under the knife for several hours. When she came out of surgery, doctors said she was fine. Everything was fine, for a while. But then, her blood levels started dropping. She would need a blood transfusion.
Susan had no time to consider the safety of Mexico's blood supply.
She needed the transfusion. Despite being reluctant, Susan agreed. And after five days in recovery, she returned to St. Louis.

Susan said, "My stitches started opening up on my legs. When I tried to get a doctor that would take care of me here in the United States, I was refused treatment."

Susan said one local doctor became hostile after learning she went to Mexico for elective surgery.

She said, "He refused to treat me, and he actually told my mother I should go see a vet."

Plastic surgeon David Caplin agreed to treat Susan and others.

Dr. Caplin said, "Personally I've seen three patients who had surgery in Mexico with moderately to severe complications. But our colleagues in
Texas have seen hundreds of patients anywhere from minor complications to fatal events associated with their cosmetic surgery."

Dr. Tolbert Wilkinson practices in San Antonio. He has an album filled with patients who asked him to repair their Mexican makeovers.

Dr. Wilkinson said, "You get on the border and you got the dregs. You got the people who can't make it in the city and they're saying cheap, cheap, cheap, quick quick quick. Pay a price they never expected to pay."

That is what happened to Maria who also asked to hide her identity.
Maria said, "I hope it doesn't happen to anyone else."

Maria returned to San Antonio with a rare bacterial infection. Health officials believe unsterilized instruments caused pockets of puss to leak throughout her body.

Dr Caplin said, "The conditions are horrific. There is basically no aseptic sterile techniques available."

Dr. Caplin says there are plenty of qualified surgeons in Mexico and other parts of the world, but Americans should be cautious.
Caplin went on to say, "It's certainly possible you save some money, but it may cost you your life."

Some critics believe American surgeons might have an agenda. After all, bargain basement prices are luring customers away.

Dr. Caplin said, "My only reason for telling patients not to go to Mexico and other third world countries to have elective surgery is because it's not safe. It may be cost effective, but it's definitely, not safe."

Despite complications, Susan would recommend the
so called "Mexican makeover," and she praised her foreign doctors and nurses.

Susan said, "It was a very sanitary environment. Most of my concern would be aftercare in the United States."