Ask The Experts -- Health, Beauty and... Brazil?!

11/17/2011 09:02 am ET
  • Paige Donner To read more from Paige Donner visit her Green Blog Network and Local Food And Wine sites.

Why Naomi's cyst removal made headlines last week, I have no idea. Neither does anyone else I asked have even the slightest clue as to why minor surgery on a mature fashion model merits international newswire coverage (including the Washington Post!)?

That said, I thought I'd take the occasion to ask an expert about the pros and cons of traveling to South America for "corrective" surgery. After all, this type of "vacationing" has exploded in popularity in recent years, primarily because people are able to boast savings of thousands of $$ on their cosmetic and plastic surgery procedures while escaping to exotic locales.

But is cosmetic surgery in S. America as safe as it's cracked up to be?

In the interest in "truth in journalism," let me state upfront that I am squeamishness personified when it comes to even the thought of someone -- anyone -- taking a knife or a needle to any part of my body. I am a firm believer in Fresh Air, Vegetables, Exercise, Yogic Shoulder Stands and gallons of sunscreen.

So, when I sat down with a friend of a friend, the highly esteemed and board certified plastic surgeon Dr. Gregory Buford, to discuss this trend, I made it very clear that he was NOT preaching to the choir when it came to plastic or cosmetic surgery procedures -- anywhere!

Still, the gracious and affable Dr. Buford, whose Denver practice is known as Beauty by Buford, and who was named one of America's Top Surgeons in the 2008 Guide to America's Top Surgeons, had this advice to offer when considering overseas travel in the name of plastic surgery:

Q: What are some advantages to staying in the U.S. when undergoing plastic or cosmetic surgery?

B:"Let me begin by saying that just because a plastic surgeon is not from the U.S. does not denigrate or reduce their credentials. There are some absolutely phenomenal Brazilian plastic surgeons whom we've all learned from.

"The distinction between a plastic surgeon in the United States and plastic surgery elsewhere is the fact that you have a very different set of patient rights.

"If you have your plastic surgery in Brazil, for example, the Brazilian physician might not be regulated as an American plastic surgeon is.

"Second of which, if you have a complication and you need to travel back to get that complication fixed, you now have lost any price savings that you gained in the first place."

Q: As a patient, you do have rights here in the U.S.?

B: "Absolutely. Most plastic surgeons are very cognizant of the fact that the best marketing is word of mouth. The rights and responsibilities here [the U.S.] are significant. If you feel you have not been treated adequately by your plastic surgeon in the U.S. you have a Board of Medical Examiners you can present your claim to and they will investigate that. You don't necessarily have these same rights in other countries. So it's simply a matter of what rights you have here and what you can do if you don't get the results you want and how protected you are as a patient. And that's taken very seriously in the United States."

Q: What is the difference between a Cosmetic Surgeon and a Plastic Surgeon?

B: "Calling oneself a Cosmetic Surgeon basically means nothing. The ABMS, the American Board of Medical Specialties, recognizes a total of 29 specialties for which it will grant board certification, one of which is plastic surgery. The American Board of Cosmetic Surgery is not recognized by the American Board of medical specialties. (Quote Amended from Original)

"The American Society of Plastic Surgeons was just very helpful in putting through legislation in Florida which would require a practitioner to advertise what their board certification is in. For example, if someone was a cosmetic surgeon and said they were board certified, they would have to clearly state what they were board certified in.

"Each patient I meet with, I tell them exactly what my training is. I encourage them to research me on the web. I'm supportive of truth in disclosure. Many cosmetic surgeons will market themselves on price point alone.

Dr. Buford offers some basic tips for preventative aging measures: Always wear sunglasses and sunscreen even when it's not glaringly sunny out.

Beauty by Buford signature treatments: The Liquid Facelift, Vaser Liposelection, Before Baby Body, Total Hand Rejuvenation.

Here's looking at you, kid. . .