Management of mycobacterium abscessus infection after medical tourism in cosmetic surgery and a review of literature

Stephen S. Cai, Karan Chopra, Scott D. Lifchez

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Introduction: Despite news reports, Food and Drug Administration disclaimers, and warnings from US plastic surgeons against the perils of cosmetic tourism, patients continue to seek care abroad and often present with infectious complications. Recent reports of Mycobacterium abscessus surgical site infection (SSI) is of particularly concern and its management, particularly surgical intervention, has been poorly documented. Methods: A retrospective review of 2 sisters who presented with M. abscessus SSI after cosmetic surgery in the Dominican Republic was performed. A comprehensive review of the literature was conducted to unveil similar cases after cosmetic tourism. Results: Both patients presented four months after index operation after definitive diagnoses have been reached. They were counselled to undergo immediate, aggressive debridement and antibiotic therapy. Although 1 patient agreed, the other patient opted for local wound care and oral antibiotics in hopes to avoid reoperation. When unsuccessful, she agreed to the initial plan which led to rapid convalescence of her infection. However, aesthetic result was far inferior to the first patient. Review of literature revealed 14 women with an average age of 40 years (range, 19-60 years). Most frequent cosmetic operations that resulted in M. abscessus SSI were abdominoplasty (41%), liposuction (27%), breast augmentation (14%), breast reduction (9%), and rejuvenation surgery (9%). Surgical interventionswere performed in all cases except one. Antibiotic therapies focused on macrolides, particularly clarithromycin or azithromycin, with average time to complete recovery of 8 months (range, 2-22 months). Conclusions: The 2 cases highlighted the importance of multidisciplinary approach of early aggressive surgical intervention and long-term intravenous antibiotics in treating M. abscessus SSI that is highly prevalent among those returning from medical tourism in cosmetic surgery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)678-682
Number of pages5
JournalAnnals of plastic surgery
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 28 2016


  • Abdominoplasty
  • Breast reduction
  • Infectious disease
  • Liposuction
  • Medical tourism
  • Mycobacterium abscessus
  • Plastic surgery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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