By Jane Metlikovec, health reporter

AUSTRALIAN women are getting off the plane and going back under the knife to fix botched plastic surgery performed on the cheap overseas.

The growing popularity of cut-price cosmetic surgery holidays has seen at least 35 women from New South Wales and 14 Victorian women return from Asia needing treatment for medical complications over the past three years.

Among them was a woman in her 20s who returned to Melbourne from Thailand unable to close her eyes after an operation to remove excess skin above her eyelid. She needed skin grafts. Another Victorian needed extra surgery after a bungled Bangkok breast lift.

The trend towards surgery holidays prompted the Australian Society for Plastic Surgeons to do a national survey last month to find out how often local surgeons were picking up the pieces of botched operations.

Perth plastic surgeons reported treating a staggering 66 beauty seekers needing treatment when they returned home. New South Wales surgeons reported seeing 35 women, and Victoria was third with 14.

Most botched operations were performed in Thailand and Malaysia, with 66 cases in Bangkok and 17 from Malaysia. Most women seeking treatment for complications had undergone breast enlargements, reductions and facelifts. Of the 68 surgeons surveyed, 40 reported seeing patients with complications or poor results, and 15 said they had treated more than one patient who had taken a cosmetic surgery holiday.

Melbourne plastic surgeon and Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons spokesman Graeme Southwick said he had seen a number of cosmetic surgery tourists at his Malvern rooms. “I have seen several patients who have come to me with problems, and that number seems to be rising,” he said. Tourism surgery operators were putting unfair strain on Australia’s health system, he said. “These companies promise perfect results, they downplay plastic surgery as something you can just do on holiday. “Every procedure is a risk, and so often we see these patients coming home with complications which need to be fixed. “Of course we will treat them, but it is not fair to the taxpayer that Medicare then covers the costs of these cases.”

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