The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported a significant increase in the number of fatalities among U.S. citizens who have traveled to the Dominican Republic for cosmetic surgery. A practice that has claimed the lives of 29 Americans between 2009 and 2018.
The CDC’s report, dated January 25, brings to light the steep rise in mortality rates in recent years.
From an annual average of 4.1 deaths between 2009 and 2018, the figure surged to an average of 13 deaths per year from 2019 to 2022, with a peak of 17 fatalities in 2020 alone. This spike in deaths prompted the U.S. Embassy in the Dominican Republic to initiate an investigation in collaboration with the CDC. [Source]
Most victims, primarily women with an average age of 40, underwent multiple procedures, including liposuction, gluteal fat transfer, abdominoplasty, and breast augmentation.
The report identifies fat embolism and pulmonary venous thromboembolism as the primary causes of death, accounting for 55% and 35% of cases, respectively.
Renowned plastic surgeons, not involved in the CDC investigation, have voiced their concerns over this trend.
Dr. Josef Hadeed, Chair of the Patient Safety Committee for the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, in an interview with Fox News Digital, explained the risks associated with overseas surgeries. “All surgery carries risk, but there are excessive deaths outlined in the report, most of which were presumably avoidable.”
Hadeed warned patients about the pitfalls of cheaper surgeries abroad, stressing the paramount importance of patient safety.
Dr. Jonathan Kaplan, a board-certified plastic surgeon in San Francisco, highlighted the added risks in foreign countries, where quality assurance and safety protocols may be inadequate compared to U.S. standards. Kaplan cautioned against the allure of cost savings, noting that potential complications can lead to significantly higher expenses in the long run.
The CDC report also casts a spotlight on the heightened risks of specific procedures like the “Brazilian Butt Lift” (BBL), known for its high risk of fatality in the realm of plastic surgery.
Dr. Hadeed stressed the necessity of using ultrasound technology during BBL to prevent fatal fat embolisms.
For U.S. citizens contemplating surgery abroad, experts like Dr. Hadeed advise thorough research and emphasize the importance of choosing a board-certified plastic surgeon, ideally a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
Dr. Kaplan’s advice is more straightforward: “Don’t do it.” He warns that even minor complications can become major issues without local medical support.
While the CDC acknowledges some limitations in its study, including the lack of comprehensive data on the number of U.S. citizens undergoing cosmetic surgeries in the Dominican Republic, the agency recommends thorough preoperative assessments and limiting surgeries to one procedure per operation.
This report raises critical concerns about the risks associated with medical tourism, urging potential patients to weigh the dangers and consider safer alternatives within the United States.