Scores of women are returning from overseas with problems after cheap breast implant surgery, a top plastic surgeon says.
New Zealand Institute of Plastic and Cosmetic Surgery founding co-director Janek Januszkiewicz has warned of the dangers of medical tourism trips to places like Thailand for cosmetic surgery.
Speaking at the New Zealand Association of Plastic Surgeons' annual scientific meeting, at Queenstown, Mr Januszkiewicz said the trend was effectively undermining years of painstaking improvements in the field in this country.
In some cases the resulting hospital bill is then picked up by the New Zealand taxpayer through ACC.
"We're striving to get the best results through having highly trained surgeons, really good nursing staff and reputable implant manufacturers,'' Mr Januszkiewicz said.
"Our challenge is people are going overseas because it's cheaper.''
Mr Januszkiewicz said there had been reports of surgeons overseas being able to access implants for $100 a pair.
In New Zealand, they were about $1500 to $2000 a pair.
"Over there you get a pair that are manufactured in China where all of the quality assurance goes out of the window... because who knows how the hell these are being made.
"You can save yourself money but you don't know what you're getting, how long they are going to last and what they're going to do to your body.''
Mr Januszkiewicz said women returning with infections, misshapen breasts and other issues led to the need for further surgeries.
"One of our concerns now is managing the increasing number of problems we're seeing from patients coming back from overseas with devastating circumstances.
"Between this group [of surgeons] here today, there'll be dozens of cases where it's come to crisis and they've ended up in a public hospital in New Zealand.''
Mr Januszkiewicz said for the next level down, dissatisfaction but not medical crisis, the patients would incur further expense.
French firm PIP sparked a global health scare in 2011 after it emerged the firm had used cheap industrial grade silicone since 2001.
Surgeons reported an unusual number of ruptures. The company was liquidated and their products banned.
In New Zealand, sharing knowledge, measuring data and keeping track of outcomes for both cosmetic and reconstructive operations has led to improved reliability for implants, although they are still not a ''lifetime device''.
"The technology has improved considerably, the surgical technique has improved, our understanding of what leads to complications has improved.
"It's progressively evolved over time to become a more reliable operation.''
Mr Januszkiewicz said ruptures are now a ''tiny'' percentage of the need to reoperate, with infections, fluid collections, capsule contraction, weight gain, and patients choosing to go up or down in size also reasons.