Cosmetic surgery treatment injuries: the New Zealand experience both at home and from cosmetic surgery tourism

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Jonathan Wheeler


plastic surgery, medical tourism, breast implants, aesthetics, breast augmentation


Objective: This article attempts to understand the number of complications arising in patients returning to New Zealand from cosmetic surgery tourism destinations with reference to the number of patients with complications from cosmetic surgery undertaken in New Zealand.

Methods: Data were requested under the New Zealand Official Information Act 1982 from the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) regarding the number of claims for treatment injury following cosmetic surgery undertaken both in New Zealand and overseas for the period 1 July 2014 to 30 June 2019. Also, a prospective audit was conducted of patients admitted to Middlemore Hospital over the one-year period March 2018 to March 2019 for complications arising as a result of cosmetic surgery tourism. 

Results: A total of 1048 claims were made to the ACC for treatment injuries arising from cosmetic surgery in New Zealand and from overseas treatment over the five-year period to 30 June 2019. Of these, 738 were accepted by the ACC, with the leading three events being breast reduction/reconstruction, breast implant/augmentation and septorhinoplasty. Bariatric surgery, vein treatment/sclerotherapy, orthodontics and isolated septoplasties were excluded by the ACC as not being ‘cosmetic surgery’. The ACC valued the total cost of treatment of these accepted claims at NZ$6.3 million dollars. 

Conclusion: Data outlining the complications arising from cosmetic surgery in New Zealand and overseas indicate a concerning burden of care required for patients who have had cosmetic surgery overseas.


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