“Is it safe to get plastic surgery in Colombia?”
If you believe what the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, and its members say…
- Plastic surgery in Colombia is performed by unqualified “hacks”, that are likely to leave you horribly disfigured or dead on the table.
- Plastic surgery performed anywhere but in the United States is bargain basement” surgery.
- Plastic surgeons in other countries operate like at a fast-food restaurant – performing plastic surgery on anyone who shows up at their office with cash, and then kicking them out the door when it’s all done.
- You're likely to return home with infections due to unsanitary conditions.
This messaging is everywhere, and hard to miss when you're looking for information on getting plastic surgery in Colombia…
- ‘My breasts were purple.’ In Colombia, even a dentist can perform plastic surgery
- How plastic surgery is killing people in Colombia
- Colombia plastic surgery | Under the Knife | Latin America Investigates
- Brooklyn woman warns about plastic surgery recovery house in Colombia
Even videos like this one that appear to be unbiased when “reporting” on the popularity of medical tourism to places like Colombia, end up saying this…
“At the end of the day, finding a well-trained, board-certified plastic surgeon, right here in the U.S. of A. will likely keep you safe and minimize the hassle factor.”
The truth about the healthcare and hospitals in Colombia
Let's take a moment to look at the reality of the Colombian healthcare system and the quality of hospitals in Colombia.
How do they compare to those of the first-world nations?
Colombia Outranks First-World Nations In Healthcare
In their ranking of the world’s healthcare systems, the World Health Organization ranks Colombia 22nd in the world for healthcare performance. That’s higher than the United States (#37), Germany (#25), Australia (#32), and Canada (#30).
And in case you think they're doing all of this in run down hospitals, you'd be mistaken.
Hospitals in Colombia among best in South America
According to a 2019 study by América Economia of the best 58 hospitals in Latin America, 24 of those were hospitals in Colombia.
Nine of the top hospitals in Colombia are in Bogotá. Another nine are found in the Medellin area. Cali was on the list with two hospitals, and both Bucaramanga, and Pasto made the list – each with one hospital.
In other words, 41% of the best hospitals in all of Latin America can be found in Colombia.
And before you think it's just Latinos that say Colombia has great hospitals, you should know…
Here's a video featuring Fundación Cardioinfantil, the 3rd best hospital in all of Latin America – also accredited with the Joint Commission International award. I think you'd agree it looks like as good or better than any North American hospital.
Dentists in the U.S. and Canada can perform plastic surgery too
One of the big myths perpetuated by plastic surgeons – especially in America – is that Colombian plastic surgeons aren't as skilled as those in first-world nations.
This popular article claims…
“…a lack of laws and regulations mean their surgery can wind up in the hands of a general physician or even a dentist.”
Yes, that's true.
Technically, any doctor can perform plastic surgery – even a dentist!
But guess what?
Any person with a medical degree and valid license to practice medicine can perform plastic surgery. In fact, they can legally perform brain surgery!
This is as true in the United States, and Canada as it is in Colombia.
Don't take my word for it. Have a listen to this American surgeon…
The fact is, plastic surgery, or cosmetic surgery as it's often referred to, is poorly regulated in most places – including the United States of America.
Colombians have a term for clinics, run by doctors that perform plastic surgery without the proper credentials or safety protocols…
Imagine you're a young woman growing up in today's world of social media influencers. The pressure to look good is enormous.
Flat noses, big boobs, and round butts are everywhere. Everywhere that is but in the mirror.
You want desperately to change the way you look but to get surgery with a legit doctor is way more than you could ever afford. So what do you do?
Well, many women resort to getting surgery, or cosmetic treatments in something the Colombians refer to as “garage clinics”.
Operated by people who may, or may not hold medical degrees, garage clinics offer cosmetic treatments at very cheap prices. The treatments and procedures are almost always unsafe, and can sometimes be deadly.
Just because the Colombians have given these clinics a name doesn't mean they're exclusive to Colombia. You can find them everywhere around the world.
Plastic surgery is SURGERY.
If performed improperly, by untrained people, you can expect that patients will die – no matter where they are. Just as they did in Miami, and when the surgery was performed by felons – also in Florida.
Who's Qualified To Perform Plastic Surgery?
In the United States, the big one is the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
In Canada, it's the Canadian Society of Plastic Surgeons.
In the U.K, it's the British Association of Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons
Each of these organizations exist to confirm that a doctor is qualified to perform plastic surgery.
In all of these organizations, doctors must prove that they have the credentials, the training, and the experience to perform plastic surgery.
Colombia is no different. They have the Colombian Society of Aesthetic and Reconstructive Plastic Surgery (SCCP).
To become a member of the SCCP, you must meet certain requirements. They must have the proper education, display the requisite skill to be a plastic surgeon, demonstrate ethical behavior, and participate in ongoing education within their field.
All of the plastic surgeons we recommend are members of the SCCP. Several of them are even members of the ASPS.
By choosing a plastic surgeon who is a member of the SCCP, you have taken a big step in eliminating the risk of an unskilled doctor performing your surgery, and you've ensured they're fully qualified to do your surgery.
So why, in the video below, does Susan Downey, MD tell you not to go outside of the United States for surgery, but instead “get it right the first time” by choosing a surgeon who's a member of the ASPS?
Does this mean the 8000 surgeons who are members of the ASPS aren't qualified?
Obviously not. They're members of the ASPS, and have met the criteria set out by the ASPS.
So what can she mean by saying such a thing? Well given the fact that one of the mandates of the ASPS is to lobby for American doctors, I think it's pretty clear. She wants to protect the interests of the AMERICAN ASPS.
After all, she could have said, “If you're travelling outside of the country for less expensive plastic surgery, make sure to contact one of our eight thousand international members…”
But she didn't.
Are Colombian Plastic Surgeons More Experienced Than Americans?
How do you define experience?
Is it the number of years one holds a position?
If I graduate as a plastic surgeon and do just 1 surgery per month for 20 years, that's 240 procedures.
Compare that to a surgeon who does 10 surgeries a week.
Even if they take 4 weeks off for vacation, that's 480 (48×10) procedures in a year – more than 2x the number of surgeries than the “more experienced” surgeon.
No. Experience is comprised of the number of years a doctor works, and how many surgeries he or she performs in that time.
Surgery is a physical skill which gets better with repetition.
Here's why I bring this up…
According to the 2018 ISAPS survey on plastic surgery, Colombian doctors did a total of 273,316 surgical procedures. With 1026 surgeons in the country, that's an average of 266 surgeries per doctor.
Compare that to the United States where 6800 doctors performed 1,492,383 surgical procedures – an average of just 229 per surgeon.
It appears that Colombian doctors are performing more surgeries per year, giving them more experience in the operating room.
The BILLION dollar question
- The hospitals in Colombia are world-class
- The Colombian healthcare system is better than those of the U.S., Canada, and other industrialized European countries.
- Colombian doctors are as qualified as those in North America and Europe
- Colombian doctors are as experienced or more so in performing surgery…
Why is there so much effort put into spreading misinformation and fear about travelling to Colombia for plastic surgery
The answer … as it often does … comes down to this:
Medical Tourism Costs Plastic Surgeons Billions of Dollars
According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, Americans spent $16.5 BILLION … that's BILLION with a capital “B” on cosmetic procedures in 2018.
That's a lot of money.
And the fact is, every time an American patient leaves their country to have plastic surgery in Colombia, a local doctor loses money.
This study, conducted in 2019 estimates that 1.4 million Americans sought plastic surgery outside of the country. And each patient got an average of 2.7 procedures done. That's billions of dollars leaving the country.
The same goes for Canada, the U.K., and Europe.
Doctors in these countries know foreign doctors are skilled at what they do.
Many of the doctors in Colombia are like my brother-in-law who's an ophthalmologist. He trained for two years in Boston and Miami, then returned home to open his practice.
So to sum up…
We've covered a lot of stuff in this article, so let's do a quick recap:
- Plastic surgery is dangerous when performed by unskilled, unqualified surgeons in ANY country;
- Dentists can do plastic surgery in the U.S., and Canada too;
- Colombia's healthcare system is rated higher than the U.S., Canada, Germany, and Australia;
- Colombian hospitals are world-class;
- Colombian plastic surgeons are as qualified and perhaps even more experienced than those in the U.S;
There's no question in my mind that it's safe to get plastic surgery in Colombia or I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing. And I certainly wouldn't be putting my real name here as the author of this article.
If you're considering having plastic surgery in Colombia, I recommend starting with this list of CERTIFIED plastic surgeons.
If you have any questions about how to plan your trip to Colombia, let us know here.