Summary: It can be tempting when you see the prices: plastic surgery for a fraction of the cost. When it comes to safe breast augmentation Minneapolis is able to provide that service (or Los Angeles, or Dallas, or wherever)… but Costa Rica has breast augmentation, too. And not only is it far cheaper, it’s far warmer. You can escape winter and get a new set of breasts. That’s why we call it plastic surgery tourism. But there are definitely some inherent risks in such an activity. Plastic surgery tourism has long held an appeal, but you leave behind all of the safeguards you would have in the United States—making that appeal a very dangerous one.

breast implant safety

As With Life, With Breast Implant: Safety First

Breast implants are among the staples of plastic surgery. And while we don’t usually think about silicone or saline breast implants as medical devices, but that’s exactly what they are. As such, they’re among the most highly regulated products on the market today. They are, after all, designed to go into the human body and perform a certain task (sit there and make the breasts look bigger). But as with anything that is placed inside the human body, there are inherent risks associated with breast implants that manufacturers are required to mitigate—or at least minimize. This is certainly true with breast implants.

And for the most part, modern, American breast implant manufacturers do an amazingly good job. Silicone implants are impeccably safe—so much so that even if there is a rupture, your implant will likely continue to function perfectly (indeed, some women who have ruptured implants don’t even know it, and as long as there is no pain and no loss of volume, you should be pretty fine). The long-held association between silicone implants and cancer has also been disproven by the numerous studies conducted by the FDA. In other words, these are amazingly safe medical devices with a very good track record.

Manufacturing is an Important Stage

However, all of that depends on the device being manufactured properly. In the United States, we have the benefit of strict guidelines for manufacturers—who are also required to place serial numbers on implants for accurate tracking. In other words, because there is significant oversight (and significant fines for attempting to circumvent that oversight), breast implants constructed and used in the United States are almost always manufactured properly and are, therefore, safe. But as anybody who has ever compared plastic surgery prices in the United States with prices in, for example, France or New Zealand or Mexico or Costa Rica, knows that we pay a premium for that safety.

To put it simply: it’s worth it. In some ways, plastic surgery tourism is a thriving business. It’s hard for U.S.-based plastic surgeons to compete with lower prices overseas. There are a lot of complex reasons for that, including the value of the dollar, exchange rates, and so on. But a big part of that price differences comes down to the education of the doctors, the quality of the equipment, and the extent of the oversight. The United States has a very robust oversight system, and while some may certain chaff at the notion or even the cost of that oversight, it does help to make the system safer (could it be improved? Certainly).

Plastic Surgery Tourism Does Not Always Mean Relaxing Results

Compare that to a new story out of France, where French breast implant manufacturer Poly Implant Prosthesis is being forced to recall 300,000 defective implants. That number is huge. It’s staggering. Three-hundred-thousand implants. Thousands of women (if not hundreds of thousands of women) could be effected by the recall, having to again go under the knife for surgery, again go through recovery, again wait for the swelling to subside, and so on. And while I can’t say with certainty that “this would never happen in America,” it’s worth pointing out that no breast implants used in plastic surgery procedures in the United States are affected.

Implants from Poly Implant Prosthesis were not allowed to be used in American procedures. But that doesn’t mean American women are not affected. Indeed, thousands of women who succumbed to the price-dropping temptations of plastic surgery tourism may not have to sign up (and pay for) another operation. Because this recall is a big deal—the owner of Poly Implant Prosthesis is, in fact, sitting in a French jail cell right now.

Safety First: Beauty that Lasts

You’d assume that breast implant safety would come first. But this certainly highlights the dangers involved in plastic surgery tourism. This doesn’t mean to say that bad things never happen with plastic surgery in the United States. Of course they do. It is pretty rare, however, and those bad things can usually be stopped in their tracks pretty quickly. Yes, you certainly pay more for plastic surgery in the United States, but you also usually get a pretty solid sense of assurance that the operation you’re undergoing will be performed as safely as possible. You also get a sense of assurance that your plastic surgeon is certified, qualified, and experienced. There are many ways, after all, to check up on your plastic surgeon.

Now, this isn’t meant to disparage the healthcare systems of various other countries. (You might have noticed, we have our own healthcare challenges in the United States to grapple with.) But the plastic surgery industry has a unique relationship with the healthcare world, both in the U.S. and abroad. It pays to do some research, and avoid the appeal of cheap, cheap prices. You get what you pay for, one way or the other. And remember, if a deal sounds too good to be true—especially in plastic surgery—it probably is.