Whether you choose to go under the knife for health, comfort, injury or aesthetics, plastic surgery is a billion-dollar industry in Australia.
But just how much does it cost, and what are the pluses and pitfalls of getting nipped and tucked in Australia, versus overseas?
Dr Joseph Ajaka, chief surgeon at Double Bay’s The Cosmos Clinic, gives the following guide to how much they charge for common procedures. These include the surgeon, any prosthetic costs, anaesthetist and clinic fees:
- Liquid Liposuction: Prices for one area start from $4,400
- Breast Augmentation: $9,000-12,000
- Breast Reduction: $10, 000 – 14, 000
- Rhinoplasty: $10000-12, 000
- Tummy Tuck (Abdominoplasty): $10, 000 -$12, 000
- Eyelid Surgery: $4,500 - $10, 000
- Face Lift: $15, 000 - $20, 000
- Ear Surgery: $5, 000 -$10, 000
- Mastopexy (Gynaecomastia): $10, 000 – $14, 000
Dr Ajaka says some procedures, such as Breast Reduction and Abdominoplasty, are subject to a heavily subsidised Medicare rebate.
Andrea* had rhinoplasty seven years ago with Dr Chris Moss in Melbourne, due to a deviated septum from breaking her nose when she was five years old. “I did my research thoroughly and paid around $8,500 for the procedure, getting about $1,000 back on Medicare because there was a medical benefit to the surgery, because I could breathe better as a result.” Andrea was really happy with the surgery and sometimes can’t even remember that she’s had it done.
Dr Scott Ingram, who practises at Brisbane’s Form and Function Clinic and is President of the Australasian Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, explains the detail around some of these costs:
- “Breast augmentation procedures generally are not covered by health insurance, but breast reduction procedures generally are. The surgical fee for each procedure is about the same, i.e. about $4,000-5,000. Where health insurance does not apply (e.g. most breast augmentation procedures), the cost of the facility (hospital or day facility) and any prosthesis (e.g. breast implants) needs to be covered by the patient as well. This could add another $5,000-6,000 to the total cost.”
- “Most abdominoplasties are covered by health insurance, and the surgical fee is again in the $4,000-5,000 range. The facility fee would ordinarily be covered by your health fund. Liposuction procedures, on the other hand, are generally not covered, so again the surgical fee and facility fee would need to be covered by the patient. Costs for liposuction are generally proportional to the amount of suctioning required, however it would be unusual for the surgical fee to exceed $4,000-5,000.”
- “Costs for facial aesthetic procedures can vary widely, depending on exactly what is being done. As an example, the surgical fee for a rhinoplasty alone might be around the $4,000 mark, but add a brow lift, eyelid surgery, face lift, neck lift and laser resurfacing and the fees could exceed $20,000.”
Dr Ingram says the three most common procedures requested of him are:
- Breast enhancement surgery
- Body contouring surgery (including liposuction)
- Facial aesthetic surgery
Dr Howard de Torres, who has been a practising surgeon for over thirty years in Sydney, says the interest in liposuction, breast augmentation and facelifts has grown due to newer techniques and safer implants. “We also are able to almost completely eliminate pain postoperatively and also give more subtle and natural results,” he says.
The most common surgeries Dr Torres performs are:
- Breast augmentation
- Breast reduction
Package Deals: Should you go overseas for your surgery?
With the price of surgery so high, many Australians are choosing to have ‘holiday makeovers’ in Thailand where work such as dentistry and breast augmentation is somewhat cheaper. Most Australian surgeons warn against getting ‘dodgy work’ and standards of hygiene differing from country to country.
The thought of serious surgery in a hospital where you can’t speak the language would frighten most of us, but Jacinta* has had breast augmentation surgery both in Australia and overseas, and believes she got much better value for money in Thailand.
Jacinta first had a breast augmentation in 2009 in Adelaide, where she paid $7700, which covered the implants and the two-hour use of the operating theatre. She was literally in by mid-morning and out after lunch, sent to recover at home.
“One thing I will never forget about my surgery in Adelaide was waking up in the middle of the surgery. I was given more anaesthetic when they saw my eyes open but I’d already seen part of the surgery,” she recalls. Although she was given prescriptions for painkillers, antibiotics and sleeping tablets, recovery at home was incredibly painful.
Still, Jacinta wasn’t completely happy with her new size, due to weight training and the broadness of her shoulders. “A girlfriend had a breast augmentation done in Thailand through a company called Medi Makeovers, so I did some research and got a quote.”
The quote she was given included the surgery, two compression garments, and eight nights accommodation in a five-star hotel. At $5,542, the quote was still more than $2,000 less than what she paid for the same surgery in Adelaide, so she booked flights and had the surgery in late November last year.
“My Medi Makeovers consultant organised everything. She sent me maps and instructions for pre-op and post-op. On the day of my surgery the hospital staff picked me up from my hotel and took me to Bangpakok 9 International Hospital in Bangkok. I had my concerns about hospitals in Thailand but this hospital was clean and professional, and the staff were very friendly.”
Jacinta’s surgeon and two of her nurses spoke English, which made her feel more at ease during the consult. After the surgery, she spent three nights in hospital, where she had her own room with TV and ensuite, and all meals were provided. Her husband was even allowed to sleep on a separate bed in the same room.
“The nurses tended to me when I was in pain or when I called for them, and I was given antibiotics and pain killers when I was due for them, with the surgeon checking on me, too.”
On leaving the hospital, Jacinta says she was provided with about two weeks’ medication for free and a driver transported her and her husband to their hotel.
After a week, she returned for a check-up at the hospital with her surgeon, where her non-dissolving stitches were removed and she was confirmed fit to fly back home to Australia.
“They gave me letters addressed to the airline stating I was fit to fly following surgery and requesting a seat with easy access. The hospital staff even drove us to the airport,” Jacinta said.
All in all, Jacinta’s Thailand surgery experience was a very pleasant one. Six weeks post-op, her recovery has been fast and she can barely see her stitches.
In fact, she believes her Thai surgeon did a better job on the stitching compared to the first surgery she had in Australia.
Despite her positive experience overseas, Jacinta advises anyone considering a procedure to research it thoroughly. “I don’t know what service other companies offer, but I do think I got a better deal and service in Thailand than my Australian surgery. I would recommend my experience with Medi Makeovers.”
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* Names have been changed upon request.
The views in this article are those of the author and interviewed subjects and are not necessarily those of Telstra BigPond. Any advice or information contained in this article and website is of a general nature only and is not intended to constitute or replace medical or professional advice. Please seek advice from your medical or healthcare practitioner concerning any treatment options. Any quoted prices are intended to be indicative only.