The primary aim of this study was to highlight the burden of cosmetic tourism on the Irish healthcare system during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our secondary aim was to examine the popularity of cosmetic tourism currently through Google Trends data analysis.
Data on all patients presenting to our unit with complications of cosmetic tourism were retrospectively reviewed to determine the level of care and resources used for each case. The ‘Google Trends’ data analysis tool was accessed and the popularity of common plastic surgery topics was analysed over the last two years.
Eight patients were referred for treatment after experiencing complications following elective cosmetic surgery overseas. Complications included seroma, infected collection, wound dehiscence and implant extrusion. Length of stay ranged from 1 to 18 days with 63% of patients requiring invasive intervention. Google trends revealed that popularity for plastic surgery topics initially decreased at each lockdown date but increased to pre-pandemic interests after a short period. Related search topics for procedures including the terms, “Turkey” and “Lithuania” increasing in popularity by more than 5000%.
This case series shows that despite the current pandemic cosmetic tourism is imposing a significant cost on healthcare resources. Analysis of Google Trends has shown that interest in these procedures is increasing despite travel restrictions and risks associated with the pandemic. The public need to be informed of the potentially negative consequences of cosmetic tourism and be discouraged from undertaking surgery overseas during the current crisis.

Copyright © 2022 British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.