Tampa Woman Warns: Inexpensive plastic surgery overseas can lead to botched ‘do-overs’

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) —  Medical tourism is more popular than ever these days. Patients are drawn to the dreamy destinations and lower prices for plastic surgery procedures.

Both women and men are exploring cosmetic enhancements while either traveling to or living in foreign countries. The prices are, indeed, often cheaper. But, in the end, the true cost can skyrocket – both in and out of pocket.

Patients are returning to the United States, only to see major post-op problems persist. In many cases, they are experiencing such massive malfunctions that they have to endure the surgeries all over again.

It has become such a problem that several well-known and well-respected Tampa Bay area plastic surgeons are seeing more than a third of their practice dedicated to “do-over’s”

In fact, one such case happened to a Tampa Bay area nurse who decided to have plastic surgery while she was living overseas in Germany.

Katie Cassandra shared her story about complications she had when she returned back to the U.S.

Katie’s story actually began in New York where she tells us she grew up in a large Italian family. She admits she was self-conscious about her weight, which at one time was 220 pounds. “You know, as a woman looking into the mirror naked, I was very sensitive,” she shared with WFLA.  “I couldn’t even look in the mirror.”

The pediatric nurse, now living in Tampa, decided to have liposuction after losing nearly 100 pounds in her late teens.

“So, I felt that if I could just feel better about myself, I could participate in life. But, the crazy thing was, when I was participating in things, I’d look around me, and I’d see people of all shapes and sizes and it’s not stopping them from going out and pursuing stuff.”

She lost the weight through diet, hard work and exercise, but was ultimately disappointed with what was left behind.

“I thought that by doing the lipo, it would contour me into the way that would make me feel comfortable in clothes, just comfortable in a bathing suit,” she said. “I was very much into wanting the perfect body.”

While living overseas and serving her country in the U.S. Air Force, Katie decided to have liposuction in Germany.  And, while she couldn’t speak German, and her doctor couldn’t speak English, she was initially pleased with the outcome.

She tell us she had wanted the surgery for a very long time, and at first, was excited about the results. “It was tight for a while. I remember being so excited when visiting Ibiza.”

But, she eventually saw problems persisting from the surgical procedure performed in Germany.

“About six months after that, I started noticing the lumps and stuff started to come back and I wasn’t gaining any weight,” she said. “When you are fixated on something, you’re not going to stop until you get it done.”

When she returned to the states, she sought the services of well-known and board-certified plastic surgeon, Dr. Daniel Diaco, in Tampa. She pointed out the issues to him, and admits, he noticed exactly what she was talking about.

“He said he could fix it, and he did,” she said. “I’m happy with what he’s done.”

Dr. Diaco tells us that surgical procedures performed overseas can be a risky experience.

“This is why medical tourism surgery may be penny wise and pound foolish,” Dr. Diaco told WFLA. “Because although the initial surgery may cost less than it does in America, when you incorporate the travel and possibility for complication, that won’t be fixed by that initial surgeon, the costs can skyrocket.”

In fact, he explained that one of the biggest issues with overseas surgery is the potential for post-op problems.  He’s seen such massive malfunctions from botched surgeries that a third of his practice is dedicated to “do-over” procedures.

“Sometimes there’s some real surprises inside, you’re amazed at what you find,” he said.

Well-known and well-respected, board-certified Tampa plastic surgeon, Dr. Edward Farrior, agrees. After nearly three decades in his field, Dr. Farrior advises any patient seeking cosmetic surgery to stay in the Tampa Bay area.

“There’s not a reason to leave. It just doesn’t make any sense to do it. We have plenty of board-certified surgeons here. You don’t need to leave.”

Often, Dr. Farrior tell us, women will hear stories that sound too good to be true.

He tells us, he’s heard stories about other procedures in other countries. “My sister, who lives in Costa Rica had it done, and she did fine. And so, her doctor told me he would do mine for half price, and they go over there and come back and end up paying three times as much,” he shared.

“Let’s say you go to the best surgeon over there. And, in the best hands, you can have a bad outcome and a complication from surgery.”

Both doctors said Central and South American countries are the worst offenders when it comes to botched surgeries.

Dr. Farrior says he also sees nearly 35 percent of his practice dedicated to revision surgeries. He tells us that a revision operation is almost always more costly than doing it the first time. Sometimes he has to do damage control that is often quite difficult.

“It’s like they did two different operations on the same nose, at the same time, and it doesn’t make sense,” he told us. Bottom line, he says, just stay stateside.

As for Katie, she’s ultimately glad she had the surgery done while she was living overseas.

“I’m one of those kind of people who have to learn from my mistakes,” she told us.  She wanted to share her story in an effort to not only caution people in having any procedures done, but also to enlighten others with what she’s learned about herself.

“My body’s not going to be like a Victoria’s Secret model ever, but it’s made me kind of realize, I’ve set the bar too high for myself, and I’m missing out on so many things in life if I don’t try to just appreciate what I have right now.”

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