Health tourism - dangers patients face in seeking cut-price hair transplant surgery abroad

POSTED: 13 February 2018


Health tourism is booming with a 109% rise in the number of Britons having cosmetic surgery overseas in the last two years
Turkey and Thailand are popular destination with some clinics using the tagline: 'Have a holiday and an operation at the same time.'
Cyprus, India, Greece and particularly Turkey are popular for hair transplants.
There are 650 hair transplant clinics in Turkey compared to only around 40 in the UK.
Prices are cheaper but there is very little regulation and patients expecting their operation to be carried out by a qualified surgeon can find they are left in the hands of junior technicians.
Research carried out by Leeds University found that one in six patients (16.5%) who had cosmetic surgery abroad suffered complications.
Hair transplant surgeon Asim Shahmalak from Crown Clinic often has to repair the mistake of the victims of health tourism.
Around 10% of his work is doing a second procedure on a patient who has undergone botched surgery abroad.
He said: "People are taking terrifying risks with their health by seeking surgery overseas. 
'I have seen the results of botched surgery, including poor hair growth, density and direction, wide strip scars, donor site depletion from graft over-harvesting and, in the worst cases, skin loss from necrosis.
'Our health is the most precious thing that we all have - why gamble with it to save a few pounds?
'Anyone performing surgery in the UK is very tightly regulated. Yes, you pay a little more but you know that you are dealing with an expert who must adhere to stringent standards from the Care Quality Commission. It really is worth paying that little bit extra."
Dr Shahmalak is one of the world's leading hair transplant surgeons and his celebrity patients include Calum Best, Gogglebox star Chris Butland-Steed and the ex-footballer Didi Hamann
Here  Dr Shahmalak's explains the three key points patients need to consider before embarking on surgery in Turkey.

1 The clinic you choose may be operating illegally 

Many of the clinics operating in Turkey which advertise in the UK do not have a licence - that means they are operating illegally.

There is a risk with any of surgery - though it is very small if you are working with a reputable surgeon in the UK who will be heavily regulated.  

However, if you are going to an illegal clinic you have no recourse if the surgery goes wrong. And what level of expertise will your surgeon have? That is, if you actually have a qualified surgeon working on your case. You may just be fobbed with poorly trained technicians.

You can find out more about the large numbers of Turkish clinics operating illegally here.

2 You won't know until too late if you have got value for money 

No successful hair transplant shows off its best results for at least six months.

That is because the transplanted hair falls out in the immediate aftermath of the operation. This is perfectly normal. The key is that the new transplanted follicles have bedded into their new home. In time, new hair will grow back from these roots and you will see the transformation in your hair - but not until several months after the procedure.

By this time, you will have returned home to the UK. If there are problems or if the procedure has not worked as you expected, are you really going to want to go to the time and expense of returning to Turkey or India to see the surgeon again to put it right.

As part of our after-care at Crown Clinic, we have face-to-face catch-ups with our patients long after the procedure to check that they are happy with every aspect of their care. You won't get this attention to detail at most clinics abroad.

3 Questions you need answering before choosing a clinic for a hair transplant

Choosing to have a hair transplant is a big decision in anyone's life. There are lot of questions you need answering before picking an individual surgeon or clinic.

Some are pretty basic but highly relevant if you considering choosing a clinic abroad.

Is it easy to contact and visit the clinic?

Are there independent checks you can make to ensure that they are using registered doctors? You would not just want to take their word for it.

Is the clinic registered with a profession body? This is an important consideration. At Crown Clinic we are registered with the International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery. All its clinics operate to high standards. It is perfectly reasonable to expect a Turkish clinic to be a member.

Does the clinic have testimonials from satisfied patients that you can look at? It is worth looking at these testimonials closely to check these are genuine.

Crown Clinic has dozens and dozens of testimonials from patients thrilled with their treatment over several years. You can read them here.

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