Summary: Different parts of the world look at plastic surgery differently, and South America is no different. In countries such as Brazil, plastic surgery is incredibly popular. In Venezuela, not only is plastic surgery popular, but breast augmentation is taken to a whole next level. However, recent economic policies of the Venezuelan government have made importing goods quite difficult, and this has certainly harmed the plastic surgery industry. U.S.-made breast implants are the best in the world in terms of safety, longevity, and endurance—but they’re also the most expensive. So some Venezuelan plastic surgeons are turning to Chinese models.

plastic surgery

Beauty in South America

South America has a well-earned reputation for liberal attitudes towards plastic surgery. In Brazil, for instance, plastic surgery is a way of life—sometimes liberating and sometimes oppressive but a part of life nonetheless. Women there save up for plastic surgeries the way some people in the United States save for college. It’s that important. With plastic surgery such a huge part of life, there’s much less stigma in South America than there is in, say, the United States when it comes to cosmetic procedures. In fact, Brazil just recently surpassed the United States when it comes to the number of procedures performed per 10,000 people.

Hard to Get

But it’s not all sunshine and lollipops. Venezuela is another South American nation that has a well-chronicled love affair with plastic surgery. According to ABC News, more than 85,000 breast procedures were performed just last year. That’s a staggering amount of breast implants and augmentations when one considers the relatively small population of the nation. But the nation’s politics and the nation’s love of plastic surgery—breast augmentation in particular—are now beginning to collide.

Venezuela has a very tightly controlled currency policy these days. This has led to all kinds of economic issues, but chief among them is an import shortage. The currency policy makes it difficult for businesses and vendors within Venezuela to purchase goods from outside the country, mostly because they become prohibitively expensive. And while this is true, certainly, of food commodities such as rice and meat, it’s now becoming true for medical devices—such as breast implants.

High Standards, High Price

The United States Food and Drug Administration has adopted very high standards for breast implants, silicone and saline alike. The FDA requires clinical trials, random inspections, and other measures to keep patients safe. These standards make breast implants manufactured and sold by the United States among the best and safest in the world. Of course, these brand name implants are also among the most expensive. So, in Venezuela, some—thought not all—plastic surgeons have taken to selling less expensive models, generally manufactured in China.

Next Size Up

According to the website of South Shore Plastic Surgery, experts on breast implants in Clear Lake TX, choosing the right implant is an incredibly important part of the procedure, both in terms of size and in terms of quality. According to the ABC report, many women choose the next size up when the preferred size is not available. This isn’t a good situation for a number of reasons. First of all, size is something that should be a matter of careful consideration, as individual women will have unique “perfect” sizes. In other words, going with a size that is too large may mean you end up with uncomfortable breasts.

Your Level of Risk

And using anything but top-notch implants simply opens you up to risk. While we certainly aren’t saying that Chinese-made breast implants are inherently unsafe, anecdotal evidence suggests that there may be increased risk of rupture and complications. Indeed, because there are fewer safety considerations in place, there’s less assurance that each individual breast implant will be as safe as the next. Because here’s the thing: cutting corners with breast implants will cost you more in the long run.

There’s such a great risk not only of an implant rupture, but that the implant will harden or, essentially go bad, before its shelf life is through. When this happens, it can cause a great deal of pain, and surgery will be necessary. Without the strict quality control ensured by the FDA, there’s little assurance that you’ll get at least fifteen years out of your implant (as is the typical measure from modern, U.S.-made silicone implants). So there’s definitely an advantage to waiting a bit and making sure you get a quality implant.

Reminding us What’s Important

To be sure, the shortage in Venezuela is not as alarming as food shortages, but it’s also difficult to trivialize. As we all know, plastic surgery can be an important component of one’s self image, so it’s availability to women of all economic class—especially in an area in which there’s so much pressure to look a certain way—shouldn’t be something we dismiss out of hand. That said, it certainly highlights the value of a robust inspection and verification system as we have here in the United States.

So if you’re thinking about your own breast augmentation procedure, make sure your plastic surgeon is using implants that are from a reputable source, or you could pay more just a little ways down the road.

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