Medical tourism is a growing trend when it comes to plastic and cosmetic surgery. Some Americans believe that they can get the same cosmetic procedures for a lower cost outside the U.S.
Brazil, Chile, Venezuela and Colombia are the most popular destinations among American medical tourists. An interesting fact: some of the better surgeons were actually trained in Cuba. There are a lot of excellent doctors in Latin America and the equipment they use is often comparable to that available in the laser clinics in the U.S. You just have to do your own research to avoid complications.
Importance needs to be placed on researching the doctor’s credentials and experience because you want a doctor who is qualified and will take good care of you. As far as the cost… These days you can get excellent deals within a reasonable driving distance from your home. Plastic surgeons and medical spas in the U.S. is a very saturated business. There is a lot of competition and a lot of top notch experts in both surgical and non-invasive procedures. Give them a chance at a free consult before you board an airplane! Guess where the Swiss are going to save money on cosmetic surgery? The U.S.!
|YAG 1064 nm Lasers||Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) Devices|
|Applications||Hair Removal, Photorejuvenation, Skin Tightening, Active Acne treatment, Telangiectasias (spider veins), Rosacea, Sun & Age Spots, Pseudofolliculitis Barbae.||Hair Removal, Photorejuvenation, Sun & Age Spots, Rosacea.|
|Efficacy||High power to dermis: more energy to follicles, vessels, collagen, sebaceous glands.||High power absorption in epidermis: less energy to deep dermal structures.|
|Comfort||Less painful due to shorter pulse durations.||Very painful due to tendency to super heat epidermal melanin. Skin cooling gels or equipment needed.|
|Risk of Side Effects||Safe on all Skin Types.||Higher risk of burning skin; not recommended for use on skin types 4-6 or tanned skin because of pigmentary risk.|
|Consumables||Few or none.||Frequent head replacements (on average after 30,000 pulses), filters and gels – annual cost $5,000-$10,000.|
We stumbled upon an old (March 7, 2007) article in ABC News – Spa Left Woman With Skin ‘Like Raw Meat’ – a story about a 52-year-old stay-at-home mom who saw the ugly side of medical spas. She went to one in Panama City, Fla., for what she thought was a routine procedure – laser treatments to remove sunspots on her back and chest.
“They put a topical ointment on my skin called Leveline, which intensified the laser,” Miles said. “After it was over, I was already burning. During the treatment, it was very excruciating pain, but I was lead to believe that this was normal.”
The pain, which she said felt like someone pressing hot curling irons in to her back, was not normal. After leaving the spa, she said that her back was on fire and that she was vomiting from the severe pain. When she finally looked in a mirror, Miles was shocked at what she saw.
“It looked like raw meat. I had horrendous blisters all over it. It was in a zebra-stripe type pattern. It was scary,” she said.
I can’t agree more with Dr Christian Jessen in London, who is sad to say that the age of blind trust in your doctor is over: patients must take some responsibility and do their homework before committing to any invasive cosmetic surgery.
Read the Warning: Women who look more Crimewatch than Baywatch are being promised miracles.
There is no denial that the demand for high ticket cosmetic surgery is on the decline but non-invasive aesthetic treatments, such as dermal fillers, injections of botulinum toxin, laser hair removal, photorejuvenation, vascular and pigmented lesion treatments are actually on the rise.
Most of these cosmetic interventions became widely available just a few years ago, but they are still holding the demand that has established aesthetic medicine as an endless frontier for fee-for-service business. In today’s economic recession, it is clear that even this business is affected, as many consumers are re-evaluating their cosmetic surgery plans and the money they will spend on them, in addition to applying higher scrutiny upon the services they purchase.
According to a recent poll by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), 27 percent of patient respondents were considering less expensive cosmetic options, compared with 20 percent six months ago. And while their planned expenditure may be less, the expectations of the consumer have not diminished. It is the promise of turning back the hands of time that continue to lure the consumer. But when cold hard cash is involved — especially during pressing financial times — practitioners have to deliver and their aesthetic outcomes must live up to the consumer’s expectations.
One of the ways to cope with the pressure of the consumer expectations is to focus on a few treatments, which you know the best and actually like to do. It is hard to be a master of all arts in aesthetic medicine and there are lots of jacks in the art of litigation who are also hungry for your patient’s cold cash.
The American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery is a professional medical society whose members are dermatologic surgeons, facial plastic surgeons, head and neck surgeons, general surgeons, oral and maxillofacial surgeons, plastic surgeons, or ocular plastic surgeons — all of whom specialize in cosmetic surgery.
The AACS has completed its annual Procedural Survey and the most notable finding is the shift towards non-invasive laser treatments.
Over the past three years, cosmetic surgeons have seen a significant increase in both males (456%) and females (215%) electing to have laser resurfacing. Laser resurfacing is performed with a carbon dioxide (CO2) laser that delivers short bursts of high-energy laser light to minimize wrinkles and lines on the face. In addition, laser hair removal has jumped to the overall number two most performed non-invasive cosmetic procedure.
“Cosmetic surgery technology is advancing at the speed of light,” states AACS President Patrick McMenamin, MD. “As we learn more about the cosmetic uses for lasers, the more patients benefit from effective results and quicker recovery time. It is an exciting time for both cosmetic surgery patients and physicians.”
Although the economy is struggling, these laser procedures seem to be recession resistant. For instance, laser resurfacing has seen an approximate $450 decline in price since 2002. “As long as these procedures are effective and affordable, their demand will continue to remain steady.”
Other notable findings from the survey include:
In 2008, cosmetic surgeons have seen a 29% increase in their female clientele. Despite the economy, women are continuing to invest in their appearances. In addition, cosmetic surgeons have seen a 2% decline male patients proving that when times are tough, cosmetic surgery is the one of the first things men delete from their wish lists.
The top three most performed invasive cosmetic procedures in 2008 include: liposuction, blepharoplasty and breast augmentation; while the most popular non-invasive cosmetic procedures were Botox(R) injections, laser hair removal and hyaluronic acid.
The 2008 Procedural Data is based on a survey of U.S.-based AACS members completed in December 2008. The entire report, conducted by RH Research, is available by contacting the Academy.
The first medical lasers to be developed were continuous wave lasers that produced a continuous beam of radiation that was subsequently absorbed by a target. Although this constant laser light could effectively treat certain dermatologic conditions, its use was limited by the fact that the laser energy not only altered the target but also “spilled over” into adjacent tissues, causing unwanted collateral damage and scarring. As our understanding of the interplay between living tissue and laser physics evolved, however, so did our ability to restrict laser damage to a specific target. The concept of selective photothermolysis developed by Anderson and Parrish in 1983 gave us the tools necessary to be more precise and safer with laser energy.
Selective photothermolysis states that a specific chromophore or target can be selectively destroyed with minimal collateral thermal tissue damage if the laser wavelength matches that absorbed by the chromophore, and if the target is exposed to the laser energy for an interval less than its thermal relaxation time. The thermal relaxation time is the time it takes a given target chromophore to lose 50% of its absorbed heat energy.
Selective photothermolysis revolutionized laser technology and paved the way for a new generation of lasers that are designed to deliver a set wavelength for a precise duration, resulting in greater specificity and safety. The pulsed, quality Q-switched, and scanned systems are examples of such laser technology. Other so-called quasi-continuous laser systems also attempt to adhere to the theory of selective photothermolysis by limiting pulse durations from a continuous beam source through shuttering or chopping of the emitted laser beam. The usefulness of these systems is often limited owing to their high repetition rates or moderately long pulse durations, causing the target to experience the laser’s energy as if it were a continuous wave.
Lasers emit a coherent and monochromatic light beam, whereas pulsed lights produce a polychromatic light whose bandwidth is selected by adapted filters. The skin’s chromophores are made up of water, hemoglobin, and melanin, to which must be added the exogenous pigments of tattoos. Each chromophore has its specific absorption spectrum. Lasers’ main mechanisms of action are the photothermal effect and the photomechanical effect.
With the previously mentioned concepts in mind, the side-effect profile of a specific laser can be predicted in general terms, based on its wavelength and mode of operation. As a group, continuous wave and quasi-continuous lasers have a higher risk of scarring and textural changes through thermal buildup and heat diffusion to normal skin structures. Lasers designed on the theory of selective photothermolysis are more specific and have a lower risk profile.
Depending on the wavelength and pulse durations delivered, pigmentary changes, epidermal cell injury, textural changes, and crusting and tissue splatter can potentially occur. It is important to remember that even the safest lasers can cause injury if used incorrectly. Repetitive or overlapping pulses, excessive energy or power settings, and improper patient selection can potentially result in a high rate of morbidity with the use of any medical laser.
Complications might be encountered with any currently available laser systems, however, today’s laser technology is universally accepted as very safe for the patient.