Women Who Travel To Dominican Republic For Plastic Surgery May Face Risk of Disfiguring Infections: CDC

Federal health officials are warning women not to travel to the Dominican Republic for plastic surgery, indicating that at least 21 patients have contracted a mutilating bacterial infection after going there for cosmetic surgery. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) launched a multi-state investigation into the outbreak of Mycobacteria in 2013, after the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in Baltimore received two reports of U.S. residents who had serious surgical site infections after undergoing plastic surgery in the Dominican Republic. The two patients were infected with rapidly growing strains of Mycobacterium abcessus complex.

The investigation identified 21 patients in 6 states who had plastic surgery in one of five Dominican Republic clinics. Thirteen of the patients had surgery at the same clinic.

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Among the patients who were infected with the serious bacteria, eight needed to be hospitalized and most of them needed more than three months of antibiotic drug therapy.

The findings were published July 13, in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Nearly all patients required therapeutic surgical intervention, eight of the patients were hospitalized and seven patients required more than three months of antibacterial drug therapy before the infection subsided.

The CDC is warning people against medical tourism, a practice where people travel to other countries to receive plastic surgery for a cheaper price. Many of the patients, including those that were born in the Dominican Republic, traveled to the country for plastic surgery to save money.

Mycobacteria is very difficult to treat. It is found worldwide and infects the skin or lungs. It causes chronic and recurrent infections resistant to antibiotics and the effects can be devastating, often mutilating the patient. More than 80% of patients reported experiencing swelling, pain, and scarring. Some needed to undergo reconstructive surgery as a result.

The risk of infection is much higher in the Dominican Republic and Brazil, but patients have been infected in the U.S. as well. Medical officials are reporting seeing more and more postoperative infections.

It remains unclear how the patients were infected with the bacteria, but it may have entered plastic surgery wounds through tap water or instruments used in surgery. Most of the patients underwent liposuction and at least one other surgical procedure, such as breast augmentation, augmentation of the buttocks or breast reduction.

Estimates indicate 1.4 million Americans will travel outside of the U.S. For medical treatment in 2016 and the market continues to grow. Medical experts indicate the medical tourism market reaches $45 to 72 billion with more than 12 million patients worldwide.

Patients who have had plastic surgery in the Dominican Republic should talk to their doctor about getting tested and should ask the clinic they had the surgery at or plan to have the surgery at whether the site has had any infections of this kind.


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