Kiwi surgeons warn against medical tourism

  • 09/04/2016
Kiwi surgeons warn against medical tourism

Plastic surgeons in New Zealand are warning against surgical tourism after an Australian man died after two marathon cosmetic surgeries in Malaysia.

The Victorian coroner has been investigating the death of Leigh Aiple, 31, in May 2014 shortly after he returned to Melbourne from Malaysia where he paid AU$35,000 (NZ$38,869) for plastic surgery he hoped would transform his life.

He had had a 360-degree tummy tuck, extensive liposuction, an upper eye lift, a chin tuck, lip filler, thigh lift and chest sculpting, media reported. The trip was organised by New Zealand-based Gorgeous Getaways.

President of the New Zealand Association of Plastic Surgeons, Dr Sally Langley, says any medical professional who ignored Mr Aiple's symptoms of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) - which caused a fatal pulmonary embolism - did not deserve to be working in the health field.

"Pain and swelling are first warnings of a potentially fatal event, especially following surgery and even more so after a long flight," she said.

The association is reiterating earlier warnings against travelling overseas for surgery, saying the surgeons, anaesthetists and hospitals may be of a lower standard than in New Zealand.

The association said the longer the operation, the higher the risk of all types of complications, and a second general anaesthetic and operation within a few days also greatly increased the risk of complications.

"We do not know the credentials or skills of doctors practising surgery in Asia, or even whether they are qualified doctors.

"It is not uncommon for the anaesthetist, who is responsible for your well-being during surgery to be a nurse, rather than a fully trained anaesthetist," she said.

Multi-resistant infections were common in Asia and were difficult to treat, she said.

Also Medsafe and surgeons recommended against travelling long distances within four to six weeks of surgery, specifically because of the high DVT risk.

Dr Langley said people had to research very carefully their options before choosing overseas surgery.

"Every plastic surgeon in New Zealand has seen very poor surgical results which may need extensive and expensive revision."

A patient who used Gorgeous Getaways to have skin removed after losing weight told the NZ Herald in 2010 she went overseas because the cost of the surgery in New Zealand was $100,000 compared to $30,000 in Malaysia.