David B. Reath, MD
Knoxville, TN (865) 450-9253

Traveling For Plastic Surgery: When It Does (And Does Not) Make Sense

Traveling For Plastic Surgery: When It Does (And Does Not) Make SenseLet’s play a little game. What do Guam, Memphis, Africa, Nashville, Chicago, Atlanta, Dubai, Canada, and South Carolina have in common? Believe it or not, plastic surgery patients have come to Knoxville, TN, from all of these places to have surgery with me. You’re probably wondering why someone would travel so far to have plastic surgery. You’re also probably wondering if it’s even a good thing. You might think that I was advertising in Air Emirates! But, I don’t (it’s not in the budget).

As you might expect, there is no simple answer. All things being equal, it is much easier to have surgery closer to your home than farther away. (Closer would probably mean within an hour or two’s drive). But as we all know, things are not always equal.

Does It Ever Make Sense To Travel for Plastic Surgery? Perhaps.

The five key issues that someone faces when having surgery a long way from their home base are:

  1. Consultation prior to surgery.
  2. Adequate time in Knoxville at the time of surgery.
  3. Someone to help with your care.
  4. Management of follow-up care.
  5. Long travel early after surgery can be uncomfortable especially if the patient has had a more involved operation.

Let me give you an example. I recently operated on someone who traveled from Dubai. I had seen this person in consultation months earlier in Knoxville. The patient went back to Dubai and returned later for surgery. This patient has family and a home here in Knoxville, and three weeks after surgery the patient returned to Dubai but will be back in Knoxville in several months. This is pretty much an ideal set up for having surgery out of town because:

  1. There was a connection with Knoxville through family or friends.
  2. There was a support group that helped after surgery with transportation to and from the surgery center and for office visits.
  3. The patient was around long enough during the initial recovery.
  4. The patient’s return in a few months for follow-up care is a real plus too. (We don’t heal in a day or a week.)

All of these things are more easily managed if there is a plastic surgeon close to you that can fit the bill. But if this is not the case, then a situation like the example above where there is a connection with and support system in the area to which you are traveling can be a reasonable option.

How Long Distance Can Work

I receive a lot of inquiries from people outside of Knoxville wanting to have surgery with me largely because of the prominence of my website and the material contained in it. This tends to lead people to me either because they do not have someone locally, they are not satisfied with the plastic surgeons close to them, or they feel that–because of what they have seen and read–I am the right person for them.

So how can all this be made to work? Lots of planning, lots of communication, and lots of understanding that the distance could become an issue. For instance, follow-up examinations are important but they are usually short appointments. If you are coming in from South Carolina, it may mean that you are traveling 10 to 12 hours for a 15-minute visit! Something to bear in mind.

The Two Big Issues To Keep In Mind

Clearly the biggest issues are time and support personnel (remember, surgery is a team sport). If the only good alternative for you is to travel here to have plastic surgery, make sure you have enough time here after the surgery for the initial recovery and follow-up, and have someone with you who can help care for you.

While we welcome patients from out of town; we also let them know that surgery is always easiest for you in your hometown. And, we are very fortunate to have many well-qualified plastic surgeons throughout the country. Here is a link to the Find a Plastic Surgeon tool on the ASPS website, the best way to find a board-certified plastic surgeon close to you.

All the best,

Dr. David B. Reath




David B. Reath, MD

Speaking of recovering from plastic surgery, our staff has put together an e-book The Plastic Surgery Planner that tells you everything you need to know (whether you are recovering in Knoxville, Guam, or Dubai.) It’s a free download! And if you’re ready to discuss your cosmetic surgery needs with me in Knoxville, TN, simply use our online contact form or call my office at (865) 450-9253 to request a consultation.


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