Ottawa Plastic Surgery
502-1525 Carling Avenue
Ottawa, ON K1Z 8R9
Phone: (613) 792-4137
Fax: (613) 792-1522

Monday—Friday: 8:30 a.m.—4:30 p.m.

Bargain shopping in plastic surgery.

Ottawa Plastic Surgery, Dr. Howard Silverman

Everyone loves a bargain, right? I certainly do! Shopping has really changed in our current environment, and we have access to unprecedented comparison shopping due to our ability to easily access prices online for comparable goods. This is pretty clear when you’re buying those Ferragamo shoes that you love; you choose the colour, size and model, and off you go! Unless the price is too good to be true (meaning you’re probably buying a fake!), you can look at costs of trusted retailers and be confident that you are getting the best possible price. However, when you are not looking at buying a specific brand, the issue of quality and reliability now enters into the decision-making process and choosing between items of differing costs becomes less obvious. Is Ferragamo better than Prada?

My sister Rhonda is a great shopper, and has a fantastic eye for fashion, trends and value. She is able to find what she is looking for with relative ease, and always seems to get great value at a great price, so I always check with her before I do something stupid. However, this does not mean that she always pays the lowest possible price. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. She knows when she is willing to accept varying degrees of quality, and when she is not, and pays accordingly. For example, she taught me that it is fine to buy Ikea furniture (which has great value, design, functionality and support), but that I shouldn’t buy Ikea-type furniture at Roche-Bobois prices, and that sometimes the value-priced purchase won’t really meet my needs and it’s best to get the correct piece from the outset.

This brings up a critical point when considering shopping for plastic surgical and aesthetic treatments, which is a common current practice. You must be able to assess the quality of the product that you are purchasing before you can properly compare prices. A knock-off Chanel handbag is still a handbag, and may suit your needs perfectly, but it is not a Chanel, and probably won’t give you the years of enjoyment and value that the original item was designed for! Regardless, if the knock-off is right for you, then buy it and enjoy it! However, don’t buy the imitation purse at a price that could only be justified by the genuine, handcrafted item, and don’t be surprised or disappointed when the quality of the imitation does not hold up over time like the real deal.

Just like a fantastic handbag, the value of high-quality plastic surgery and aesthetic treatments should be considered. I personally feel that when choosing a surgeon or a surgical office, it is not a good time to bargain-shop. You can take a chance on that knock-off Chanel bag, toss it after a few months if it did not meet your expectations, and chalk the lost money up to a failed experiment. Unfortunately, this is often not the case with a surgical procedure gone wrong. The results of plastic surgery are often permanent and difficult, if not impossible, to correct if undesirable. As such it is important that you choose the most experienced and able surgeon you can find, to perform your surgery (take a look at my last blog entry regarding how to choose a plastic surgeon). You may or may not find that your chosen surgeon’s prices are higher than some of their competitor’s, but money saved up front may prove extremely costly of your time, finances and frustration in the long run if a bargain-basement operation at low cost was your prime objective when selecting a surgeon. In fact, I suggest that price should be the last and least important deciding factor when making your choice in a surgeon.

Additionally, issues other than the surgeon’s skill and experience must also be considered. Things like patient safety, convenience of appointments and follow-ups, access to the surgeon after the surgery is completed, refund and surgical revision policies, professionalism of the office staff and team, respect and confidentiality, are also things that should be considered as part of the value of your purchase and should be appreciated as part of the cost.

Another issue that I would like to discuss is international surgical tourism, where patients travel to foreign destinations to get inexpensive plastic surgery, with a vacation thrown in on top of that. Sounds great, but I have some concerns. The most obvious one is the training, skill and quality of the surgeon and the surgical care facility. It might be great, or it might be abysmal, and there are an infinite number of things that go on behind the scenes during a surgical procedure that patients are not privy to or aware of, such as instrument sterility, quality of implants, sutures, anesthesia monitoring and resuscitative equipment, drugs, hospital affiliations, and on and on and on and on… that may result in a potentially life threatening situation. In Canada, all plastic surgeons must be certified by provincial and national boards, meaning that they are judged and certified by their peers who are accepted experts in the field, and that surgical facilities and hospitals are subject to provincial standards of excellence, with regular inspections to ensure quality and safety.

But let’s say that you found a brilliant surgeon with a beautiful, safe facility outside of Canada (there are many!). If everything goes as anticipated, then it’s a big win. But what happens when all is not right, even after the initial surgery seemed ok? Or what if you arrive home and have a significant problem or complication, such as an infection or otherwise, which may appear days or weeks after surgery? Most likely, you will need to go to your nearest emergency room and seek care from a team that you have not met or chosen, and who have little or no understanding of what was done during your surgery, and very limited or absent access to the operating surgeon. These occurrences are now becoming frequent in Canadian emergency rooms, and while our local plastic surgeons will never refuse to offer a patient emergent care to restore well being, we cannot guarantee or be responsible for the ultimate cosmetic and aesthetic results that you sought, which may be compromised by the complication of the initial surgery.

Correction of these problems will likely require either a costly return visit to the out-of-country surgeon, incurring the risk of a repeat performance, or starting over again with a local surgeon who will try to reverse the negative outcome, and will most likely (and justly) expect full payment for the aesthetic work being required. I feel that such behaviour is an unnecessary gamble, when there are many skilled surgeons right here at home. Furthermore, while I am no legal expert, I suspect that if things go truly off the rails, legal recourse for malpractice would be very difficult if not impossible to pursue in a distant country.

I find that the same principles of value apply to aesthetic treatments, such as neuromodulator (Botox, Xeomin, etc.) treatments, dermal filler injections, laser treatments, CoolSculpting and other minimally invasive treatments. It is easy to shop around for the cheapest price of Botox per unit injected, but the raw cost of the material is actually only a small part of the cost of treatment. You are also purchasing experience, skill, quality of product, support and follow-up. While there is a greater element of safety with these products compared to surgery, as they are often time-limited and reversible, some complications of these treatments can in fact be permanent, such as tissue loss (necrosis), blindness, scarring, and burns, among others. As such, I feel that it is critical that these treatments be administered at practices where there are skilled physicians on hand at all times who are experienced in dealing with such issues should they arise. While few would-be practitioners would be bold enough to try their untrained hands at surgery, it seems that this is sometimes not the case when it comes to injectables and other such treatments, and you are well advised to understand exactly who is performing your procedure, and who is responsible for its quality and safety. I was recently shocked to read in last month’s Canadian Journal of Plastic Surgery, that it is becoming a practice for completely untrained individuals (patients) to inject themselves! The impression is that after watching themselves being injected a few times, these brave (?) individuals feel that they have the skills necessary to perform their own procedures on themselves. This is just such a terrible idea on so many levels that I can’t dedicate much space to this, but apparently this is a thing. Enough said!!

These are some of my thoughts about bargain shopping, and I hope that you found them helpful or at least entertaining. Bargain shopping might be great for your favourite article of clothing, but make sure that you understand what you might be sacrificing when considering what seems like a great price for your plastic surgery! As you might have guessed, I am not the least expensive surgeon on the block, but I believe that I am worth it. I endeavour to position the quality of my surgeries, my care and my office at the very top of the market, so that each of my patients should receive truly top-notch surgery, and the price is the price! Shop well, and shop smart!

4 Responses to Bargain shopping in plastic surgery.

  • Lise M. Dion says:

    I am in total agreement with what you have written. Having just read about a case of a 35 year old American woman who went to Mexico recently for a cheap rhinoplasty and subsequently dying from incorrectly applied anesthesia, I have always been a firm believer in trusting your life with a top notch surgeon. I, like your sister, love a great bargain but not when it comes to plastic surgery. I feel very lucky to have found you and highly recommend you whenever the opportunity arises.

  • Cindy Laprade says:

    I absolutely agree with you. I would never go bargain shopping for a plastic surgeon or for any procedure on my face. You came highly recommended by one of my favourite doctors, Dr. Dent. I can’t wait until I lose enough weight to be able to have my surgery.

    Going to a foreign country for this type of surgery because of price is insane.

  • Marie-Claude Rolland says:

    I can’t agree more. When it comes to something that will have a long time effect on your body, the last thing you want, is a good deal.
    Skills, knowledge and experience should be at the top of your list.

  • Janet says:

    I completely agree as well! I had my initial surgery in 2002 and have an upcoming appointment in new year. It never crossed my mind to look elsewhere and I have referred many friends and family.

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