The appeal of medical tourism for cosmetic surgery paints a picture of cost-effective surgeries amid beautiful landscapes. Yet, warnings from the International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery (ISHRS) caution individuals may be buying unsafe, illegal procedures performed by technicians, not qualified physicians.

An earlier alert issued in 2014 by ISHRS shed light on the growing trend of illegal hair-restoration practices and the serious consequences it could hold for unsuspecting consumers.

“No one should think that even a minor cosmetic surgery isn’t surgery, as medical decisions need to be made constantly during cosmetic procedures and some type of medication is administered to the patient that needs to be monitored and in some cases adjusted during surgery,” says Sharon A. Keene, MD, FISHRS, and member of the ISHRS Executive Committee, in a media release from ISHRS.

“We’re finding that some patients seeking hair transplants abroad are being lured by a doctor’s credentials, but then there’s the classic ‘bait and switch’ model happening where the actual surgery is being performed by a technician who is not licensed to perform surgery. This is a dangerous practice that places patients at serious risk,” Keene adds.

For example, the Turkish Health Ministry recently placed restrictions on where surgeries for hair transplant are allowed. By this rule, hospitals are the only place to perform hair transplants legally. This makes transplants performed in a private hospital or clinic illegal.

While Turkey remains a popular medical tourism destination for hair transplant surgery, with a $4.5 billion health tourism income in 2015, a so-called bargain price could become higher when it comes to misdiagnosis, failure to diagnose hair disorders and other related systemic diseases. Patients also run the risk of receiving suggestions for unnecessary or ill-advised surgery, per the release.

“Black market hair transplant clinics in Turkey prey on medical tourists who are not aware of this growing practice and attracted by the cheaper surgery — especially patients from Arabic countries who are not doing their homework by researching these practices,” states Tayfun Oguzoglu, MD, a member of the ISHRS, in the release.

“Patients must take extreme precaution and thoroughly research whether their hair restoration surgeon is actually an experienced doctor and that all aspects of the surgery, from start to finish, are being performed by the doctor and not a fake doctor. This problem is not unique to Turkey. It is growing and infecting Europe, the Middle East and the US. There are reports of clinics in Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium in which illegal Turkish technician groups perform surgery under the auspices of licensed Turkish doctors,” Ogusoglu continues.

ISHRS reports hair-restoration surgery is at an all-time high with 397,048 surgical hair restoration procedures performed in 2014. This is a 76% jump from 2006. Most gains came from Asia, South America, Mexico/Central and South America, and the Middle East.

[Source(s): International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery, PR Newswire]