Infection Outbreak Linked to Plastic Surgery Trips to Dominican Republic

Health officials are warning tourists against receiving cosmetic surgery while on vacation, after at least 19 women developed serious infections after undergoing cosmetic surgery in the Dominican Republic.  

According to the March 7 edition of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (MDHMH) first warned of the infections after two women contracted nontuberculosis mycobacterium in August 2013. Both traveled to the Dominican Republic to undergo plastic surgery at the same clinic.

The patients sought medical attention within seven days after returning to the United States. Abscesses began to form, clear fluid drainage from the wounds began and the women developed pain and fever. The were both initially treated with antibiotics; however the treatment was ineffective on this particular strain of mycobacterium, a tuberculosis related infection.

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Officials later identified 17 more patients in five different states who also experienced infections after receiving cosmetic surgery in the Dominican Republic. The women, ages 18 to 59, exhibited symptoms during April through November of 2014 and were hospitalized after returning to the U.S.

Seven women received surgery at seven different surgical clinics in the Dominican Republic. Twelve women received surgery at the same clinic as the first two patients.

No deaths have occurred as a result of the infections; however the majority of the women required hospitalization. Nearly all the patients required multiple “therapeutic and corrective surgical procedures and long courses of antibiotics” as treatment.

Two cases were confirmed as M. Fortuitum infections, 12 cases were confirmed mycobacterium abscessus infections and one case is still pending final speciation. Cases were identified in New York, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.

The women traveled to the Dominican Republic to receive liposuction, tummy tucks and breast implants at a reduced cost. All procedures were completed between March and November 2013.

The first clinic involved in the infection outbreak was closed temporarily by Dominican health officials.

Tourists often seek medical attention or surgical procedures from other countries which offer the procedures at much lower rates than the United States. The CDC warns that such trips put patients at significant risk of medical complications and infections.

The CDC advises those planning to receive surgery outside of the U.S. to verify the doctor and facility are licensed and accredited by an internationally recognized accreditation organization.

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