A woman from Texas is on life support after suffering from complications of a plastic surgery procedure she attempted to have done abroad. Laura Avila traveled to Juarez, Mexico, to have plastic surgery done on her nose, because the procedure costs much less in Mexico than in the U.S., according to a report from New Orleans NBC affiliate WDSU 6.
Avila had complications after she was given anesthesia, and doctors refused to continue with the surgery. “Laura suffered a cardiac arrest for four minutes,” her sister, Angie Avila, wrote on a GoFundMe page she started to help fund Laura’s medical bills. “She was then placed into a medically induced coma to prevent further damage to her brain that was caused by the complications she experienced during anesthesia.”
Doctors recently started to slowly take Laura out of the coma, but it’s “too soon to know the state she will be in from the damage she has sustained until she awakens,” Avila wrote. Laura had brain swelling that caused brain damage, she said, and is currently having seizures. “She had been in an Intensive Care Unit in Mexico for six days before we were allowed to get her back to the U.S.,” Avila continued. “In the event that she wakes up, it is likely she will need to begin physical therapy and rehabilitation for an unforeseen period of time.”
The family is hoping to raise $150,000 to help pay for Laura’s medical bills.
This isn’t the first case of someone suffering serious complications while attempting to have surgery performed abroad. One unidentified woman traveled to the Dominican Republic to have a tummy tuck and ended up with massive open sores and an antibiotic-resistant infection that left her with a deformed abdomen, per the Chicago Tribune. A recent study published in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery identified 78 patients over seven years who had medical complications from traveling abroad for elective surgery and needed follow-up care in the U.S.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that plastic surgery in the U.S. is perfect. Plenty of people have suffered from complications and even died during or after surgery, including Joan Rivers, and Kanye West’s mother, Donda West.
The Centers for Disease Control acknowledges on its website that medical tourism is fairly common, but points out that there are risks. In order to do it safely, they recommend making sure your current medical conditions are well controlled before undergoing surgery, checking the qualifications of the person who will be performing the surgery as well as the facility where it will take place, taking copies of your medical records with you and bringing back copies of your medical records.
“If you have a good result after traveling abroad for surgery, then it’s not a bad idea,” Craig Vander Kolk, MD, director of cosmetic medicine and surgery at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “The problem is that you risk having a bad complication. We never recommend it.”
Vander Kolk acknowledges that plastic surgery in an accredited center with an accredited doctor in the U.S. can be costly, but he says it’s worth it. “You can always try to get something for less, but I’ve had patients get silicone implants that are off-label, those who develop infections, or get sick after traveling abroad for surgery,” he says. “Some surgeons aren’t OK with fixing these.”
All surgery comes with risks, including plastic surgery, Peter LePort, MD, a bariatric surgeon and medical director of MemorialCare Center for Obesity at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, Calif., tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “You have major complications that can occur even with the most minor surgery,” he says. “Those complications can be as simple as an allergy to whatever medication or anesthetic is being used. Allergies, if you’re very hypersensitive, can lead to severe pulmonary, lung and heart problems, and even death.”
Surgery can also be mentally and physically stressful, and that’s something that doctors need to take into account, LePort says. “Your body has to be able to handle whatever that stress is,” he says. “Most physicians will be able to understand and work out whether a patient can take it, but if they’re not experienced, they may not.”
When it comes to finding a good surgeon, Vander Kolk recommends relying on word of mouth, along with making sure you’re using a board-certified plastic surgeon. Also, listen to your gut and shop around. “I tell people to see as many doctors as you feel comfortable with,” he says. “If a surgeon isn’t going to answer all your questions and you don’t have a good feeling, don’t do it.”
As for getting surgery abroad, just know you’re rolling the dice. “I’ve seen some good results, but it’s risky,” Vander Kolk says. “We always think it’s a bad idea.”
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