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Medical Travel Guide
When considering Plastic Surgery in Spain, it is especially important to take your decisions carefully. I’ve created this simple Medical Travel Guide (based on the one by the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery – ISAPS) to promote the safety of people considering cosmetic surgery in Spain.
Dr. Patricia Gutierrez Ontalvilla
Dr. Patricia Gutierrez has a MD. in Medicine and Surgery with an honorable mention from the prestigious University of Navarra (1998).
Dr. Patricia Gutierrez completed her training in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at the Ospedale Civile di Legnano (Milan) in 2002.
She completed her specialty in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery in the Department of Plastic Surgery and Burn Unit, in the Hospital Universitario “La Fe” in Valencia (1999-2004).
She is a member of the Spanish Society of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery (SECPRE), International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS) and the Valencian Society of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic (SVCPRE).
Dr. Patricia Gutierrez Ontalvilla.
Plastic, Aesthetic and Reconstructive Surgeon.
Medical Travel Guide
Tips for a successful plastic surgery in Spain
Guidelines for Plastic Surgery Tourists
Aesthetic plastic surgery requires that you choose a highly trained and qualified plastic surgeon. Dr. Patricia Gutierrez belongs to some of the most prestigious International Aesthetic Plastic Surgery Associations. Here you can find her profile page at the ISAPS website.
Choose the Right Procedure
Does the procedure you are considering provide the improvements you want?
When establishing realistic expectations for plastic surgery, it is important to understand the improvements the procedure can provide. For example, you might be considering liposuction when a tummy tuck is necessary. Our procedures section provides overview pages for common aesthetic plastic surgery treatments.
Do you fully understand the procedure and possible complications?
Make sure you understand what the procedure entails in terms of scars, recovery time and risks.
Are you a good candidate for the procedure you are considering?
Talk with the surgeon about your expected outcome to make sure that it is reasonable. It is also important for your surgeon to conduct a medical screening to determine whether you are at risk for complications.
Choose Your Surgeon Carefully
What is the surgeon’s training?
Verify that the surgeon is trained and experienced in performing the procedure you are considering. Choosing a gynecologist for a breast augmentation or a dermatologist for a face lift may be a risky decision.
Is the plastic surgeon certified?
In order to become a member of ISAPS, surgeons must be accepted by the national plastic surgery society in the country in which they currently practice. Use ISAPS member locator to obtain the names and addresses of over 2,400 certified plastic surgeons in 94 countries.
Is the surgeon a member of recognized national and international plastic surgery societies?
ISAPS membership ensures both. ISAPS is the largest international society of individual plastic surgeons. Membership is by invitation and is granted to applicants only after extensive screening. You have the right to know if the surgeon is a member of his/her national plastic surgery society, is a board-certified (or the equivalent in that country) plastic surgeon and is properly trained to perform the procedure you are considering.
Dr. Patricia Gutierrez belongs to some of the most prestigious International Aesthetic Plastic Surgery Associations. Here you can find her profile page at the ISAPS website.
Do the key personnel at the surgeon’s office speak your language fluently?
If you cannot be easily understood, be prepared for complications. Dr. Patricia Gutierrez speaks fluent Spanish, English and Italian.
With whom are you communicating?
You should be talking directly with the doctor’s staff and the doctor. A travel agent should only make travel and lodging arrangements. You will talk directly with Dr. Patricia Gutierrez and her staff for anything related with your procedures.
Have you checked the surgeon’s references?
Ask for names and contact information of patients who have recently had similar procedures and contact them about their experience with the surgeon, his/her staff, aftercare facilities and post-operative follow-up. In this website you can find testimonials (in Spanish) from Dr. Patricia Gutierrez Ontalvilla’s patients that might help you understand the level of care, detail and professionalism of our clinic.
Do the surgeon and his/her facility use a safety checklist?
The World Health Organization (WHO) developed a 19-question surgical safety checklist that, when implemented, can reduce surgical complications and surgical deaths. This simple checklist, much like a pilot’s pre-flight checklist, can be used in a variety of surgical settings without additional costs. Dr. Patricia Gutierrez uses the WHO checklist.
Is the plastic surgeon’s clinic or hospital accredited or certified?
You can review the Hospital website here. Feel free to ask us for certification information and the name of the certifying body when assessing a surgical setting. As regulations vary from country to country, choosing an accredited clinic or hospital means that the facility has passed a comprehensive evaluation and operates in accordance with patient safety standards.
Make a Plan
Does your personal health insurance cover you outside your country?
Most health insurance providers do not cover individuals for surgery performed outside their own country. With the rise in medical tourism, international medical coverage is becoming more common. Ask if coverage is available through your insurance agent.
Where will you stay while you recover?
Patients should stay in the area where the surgery was performed for at least one week, depending on the procedure. Traveling too soon after surgery increases the risk of pulmonary embolism and blood clots. Find out in advance where you will stay and if this facility is prepared to care for your post-operative needs. Dr. Patricia Gutierrez staff can help you coordinating your stay. Feel free to contact us for advice about hotels in Valencia and the area near by.
What about complications and follow-up care?
Even when surgery is properly performed, complications are a possibility. Dr. Patricia Gutierrez offers an insurance in case a secondary procedure is necessary. Ask about it during your appointment.
Although it is elective, aesthetic cosmetic surgery is actual surgery that involves risks and possible side effects. The International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS) encourages patients who plan to travel outside their home countries for cosmetic plastic surgery to review these important safety considerations.
Dr. Patricia Gutierrez belongs to some of the most prestigious International Aesthetic Plastic Surgery Associations. Here you can find her profile page at the ISAPS website.
Patient Safety Diamond
The Patient Safety Diamond, designates four factors that are required for safe aesthetic plastic surgery:
- Procedure: appropriate for the patient
- Patient: a good candidate for the procedure
- Surgeon: qualified and experienced in performing the procedure
- Surgical setting: safe with trained personnel and emergency procedures in place
By ensuring that all four of these criteria are met, you will optimize your safety and the success of your aesthetic procedure.
Research Your Procedure
Because you plan to undergo surgery by choice instead of medical necessity, it is important to make sure you are a good candidate for the procedure you are considering. Review the possible risks, side effects and required recovery time during your appointment.
If you want to have multiple procedures performed together, for example abdominoplasty and breast augmentation, make sure the surgery can be completed in a safe amount of time. Typical cosmetic procedures can be completed within one to three hours; to be safe a combination of procedures should take no longer than five to six hours.
Research Your Surgeon
Make sure you choose your surgeon carefully. The simplest way is to choose an ISAPS member. Important surgeon qualifications include:
- Training in the procedure you are considering
- Experience performing the procedure you are considering
- An excellent safety record
- Ethical practices
Here you can find Dr. Patricia Gutierrez profile page at the ISAPS website.
Research the Surgical Setting
Because standards vary among countries, you must carefully research the surgical setting your surgeon will use. If your surgery will be performed in a hospital, make sure that the hospital is certified or accredited. If an outpatient surgery center will be used, find out if it is accredited by the American Association for Accreditation for Ambulatory Surgery Facilities International (AAAASFI) (formerly called Surgery Facilities Resources). You can review the Hospital NISA 9 of October website here.
Planning Your Medical Travel
¿Do you need help planning your medical travel?
Dr. Patricia Gutierrez staff can help you plan your medical travel.
- Schedule a pre-consultation that may be conducted using one or a combination of the following:
- By telephone
- Using an online form
- Over the Internet using a service such as Skype™ or Google+ Hangout
- Make sure the surgeon and the hospital staff who will care for you can speak your language.
- Obtain a price for your surgery and ensure that you have a clear understanding of what is included. See our Fees, Financing & Insurance tab for more information.
- Determine how you will finance your procedure and travel needs. Find out which payment methods your surgeon accepts such as cash, traveler’s checks or credit cards. Ask about available financing options.
- Schedule your surgery with the practice. Determine required lab work and vaccinations. Find out how far in advance you need to arrive to have your consultation.
- For continuity of care, make sure your local doctor is informed about your surgery and provides any relevant medical records to your surgeon. Make sure your surgeon can send information about your procedure to your local doctor.
- Determine your potential recovery and aftercare needs. How long will it be before you can return home? What is the schedule for follow-up visits?
- Locate emergency care providers in the country you are traveling to and at home.
- Make your travel arrangements. Considerations include:
- Where will you stay the night before surgery and while you recover?
- Which airport is closest to the practice?
- Do you need a passport? Do you need a visa?
- Will you need foreign currency or traveler’s checks?
- Who will drive you to your hotel and help care for you after surgery?
- Pack for your trip. In addition to typical travel supplies, helpful items after surgery may include:
- Sun protection such as a hat, scarf or sunscreen
- Clothing that is easy to put on/take off (shirts that button in front, pants with elastic waist)
- Special compression garments or a surgical bra
- Pillows for the neck, body or back to support specific areas after surgery.
Selecting Your Surgeon
Once you have made the decision to proceed with aesthetic or cosmetic plastic surgery abroad, the next step is selecting the right aesthetic plastic surgeon for you. Three important considerations are qualifications, surgical facilities and rapport.
Aesthetic plastic surgery requires a highly trained and qualified plastic surgeon. Dr. Patricia Gutierrez has a MD. in Medicine and Surgery with an honorable mention from the prestigious University of Navarra (1998). She is a member of the Spanish Society of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery (SECPRE), International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS), Spanish Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (AECEP) and the Valencian Society of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic (SVCPRE).
Start by determining if the prospective surgeon is qualified to perform the procedures you want. The surgeon you select should have training and experience in performing a wide range of aesthetic plastic surgery procedures. Because regulations, training, and certification policies for aesthetic plastic surgeons vary throughout the world, the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS) can take the uncertainty out of your decision. When you choose an ISAPS member, you can be confident that you have made an excellent choice. No other international organization screens its members as thoroughly and extensively as ISAPS does.
Questions to ask potential surgeons include:
- Are you a member of ISAPS?
- How many procedures of this type have you performed? What is your complication rate?
- How often do you perform the procedure I am considering?
- How many patients have you treated from abroad?
Surgical Facility Privileges
Reputable, qualified surgeons possess surgical privileges at accredited facilities. When selecting a surgeon, it is important to research the surgical setting.
- Hospitals: Even if your procedure will be performed in an outpatient clinic, find out if your surgeon has hospital privileges. Hospital committees routinely examine the training of surgeons to determine whether to allow them to perform the procedures at that institution. It is a warning sign if a surgeon does not have hospital privileges. Dr. Patricia Gutierrez performs every surgery procedure at Hospital NISA 9 de Octubre (Valencia, Spain).
- Outpatient clinics: Working in an accredited outpatient clinic is another indication that the surgeon’s training has been evaluated and determined to be acceptable. Validation of the training of a surgeon is a prerequisite to obtaining a certificate from many accreditation organizations. ISAPS partners with American Association for Accreditation for Ambulatory Surgery Facilities International (AAAASFI), formerly known as Surgery Facilities Resources, Inc. (SFR), an international organization that provides accreditation to outpatient surgical facilities. Dr. Patricia Gutierrez attends her patients weekly at her private pratice in the before mentioned facilities where she’s an accredited plastic surgeon.
Finally, it is important that you are comfortable speaking with your surgeon and that you feel that the surgeon understands your goals. Your comfort level with your surgeon facilitates open communication, which is essential in preparing for your surgical procedure. Questions to ask include:
- Do you have before-and-after photos that demonstrate typical results for the procedures I am considering?
- Can I speak with a few of your patients who have undergone similar procedures?
The Surgical Setting
Because regulations vary from country to country, it can be difficult to determine whether the surgical setting your surgeon uses is safe for your cosmetic plastic surgery abroad. The most reliable measure of safety is to verify that your surgeon uses an accredited hospital or outpatient clinic. To become accredited, the facility must pass a comprehensive evaluation and operate in accordance with patient safety standards.
Hospital 9 of October in Valencia (Spain) is a prestigious private hospital. It belongs to the NISA group which is one of the biggest private medicine companies in Spain running 8 hospitals plus 2 medical centers all over the country.
The World Health Organization (WHO) developed a 19-question surgical safety checklist that, when consistently implemented, can reduce surgical complications and surgical deaths. This simple checklist, much like a pilot’s pre-flight checklist, can be used in a variety of surgical settings without additional costs. The checklist is divided into three phases of surgery:
- Before anesthesia
- Before an incision is made
- Before the patient leaves the operating room
For each phase, a designated staff member must confirm that the surgery team has completed the listed tasks before it proceeds. Ask if your surgeon and surgical facility uses the WHO checklist or a similar protocol.
If your procedure is to be performed in a hospital, verify that the hospital is accredited or certified. Ask your surgeon for certification information and the name of the certifying body. Healthy patients should not be exposed to patients with infectious diseases. In a safe hospital setting, healthy aesthetic plastic surgery patients should not be treated in the same operating room, cared for by the same medical staff and share recovery areas with patients who are ill.
The American Association for Accreditation for Ambulatory Surgery Facilities International, (AAAASFI), formerly known as Surgery Facilities Resources, Inc. (SFR), is an international organization that provides accreditation to surgical facilities. ISAPS partners with AAAASFI to provide patients with means of determining whether a facility operates under safe practices.
The certificate of AAAASFI accreditation signifies to patients that the accredited facility has voluntarily opened itself to the scrutiny of an international organization dedicated to patient safety. Accredited facilities must meet stringent national standards for equipment, operating room safety, personnel and surgeon credentials. When you choose a surgeon who uses an AAAASFI accredited facility, you can be confident that your procedure will be performed to the highest standards of safety.
Fees, Financing and Insurance
When planning medical travel, financing is an important consideration. On this tab you can find some important considerations related to fees, financing and insurance that patients should think through carefully before traveling for cosmetic surgery abroad.
A common reason people have for traveling outside of their home countries for cosmetic surgery is to save money. It is important to evaluate the total cost of your procedure when performing your calculations to determine whether there actually is a financial benefit. In addition to the price of the procedure, be sure to account for the costs of:
- Surgeon’s fees
- Pre and post-op consultations
- Surgical facility
- Other surgical needs such as breast implants and compression garments
- Lab work
- Travel, including airplane tickets, accommodations, transportation on the ground, and time off from work for travel and recovery
- Additional medical and travel costs if you have a complication
While a low fee for aesthetic plastic surgery is appealing, select your surgeon carefully. Research his or her qualifications, reputation, references and experience, especially when the fee is significantly lower than for other surgeons.
Financing considerations include:
- What forms of payment does your surgeon accept?
- Are financing options available at home or through your surgeon?
- Will any fees be reimbursed if you need to cancel your surgery?
Most cosmetic surgery procedures are considered elective and therefore not covered under medical insurance. Some procedures such as reduction mammoplasty and rhinoplasty may be covered. Because complications may occur even with the most qualified surgeon, it can be helpful to explore insurance options ahead of time. Considerations include:
- Will your medical insurance cover your procedure outside of your home country?
- Will your medical insurance cover you back home if you have complications?
- Does your procedure qualify for ISAPS complication insurance? If so, is your surgeon willing to purchase it?
Recovery, Aftercare and Complications
Appropriate aftercare is critical to the success of your procedure.
Recovery and Aftercare
Recovery and aftercare requirements will depend on your specific surgery and your surgeon’s recommendations. To have the best possible outcome, ask your surgeon the following questions:
Where will I be for the first 24 hours after surgery?
This is typically the period when complications due to the anesthesia or excessive bleeding are most likely to occur. Find out whether you will be able to return to the clinic if concerns arise.
What type of post-op care will I need?
Depending on what type of care will be required, you may need to arrange assistance after your surgery. Patients often require help getting dressed, feeding themselves and caring for other personal needs for at least a few days. Ask whether you will need assistance and for how long.
How will travel impact my surgical outcome?
Even without surgery, sitting for long periods of time, such as during a long airplane flight or car ride, increases the risk for deep vein thrombosis (blood clots in the legs) and pulmonary embolism (blood clots in the lungs). After surgery, these concerns are compounded by the fact that you may have difficulty standing and need to limit pressure on the surgical area by repositioning your body or face regularly. Find out how long you need to wait before traveling home and follow your surgeon’s advice.
What restrictions will I need to make after surgery?
Common vacation activities like swimming, sunbathing and drinking alcohol are typically not recommended after surgery. Lifting heavy bags and standing or walking for long periods of time are other vacation-related activities you may need to avoid.
Because all types of surgery involve the possibility of complications, it is important to develop a plan for your care ahead of time. Before your surgery, questions to ask your surgeon may include:
- Where do I go if an emergency arises before I return home?
- Can I call you if I have concerns after surgery?
- Are you affiliated with any clinics in my home country that I can go to for follow-up care?
- Do you have insurance that will cover complications?