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LA JOLLA, Calif. - If you're thinking of heading to Mexico to save money on plastic surgery, you might want to think twice. When it comes to going under the knife, cheaper isn't necessarily better.


Anna Lisa Tournahau described her experience getting plastic surgery south of the border as horrible. She had a procedure done in Tijuana. She said her surgery left her leaking from the messy stitching.


"They cut you all around and it's sort of like a body lift," she said.


She paid the plastic surgeon $5000 to get an improved figure, but she awoke from surgery in horror, she said. Tournahau said the surgery infected her with  e-coli and she contracted scabies at the clinic.


La Jolla plastic surgeon Dr. Richard Chaffoo is performing reconstructive surgery to repair the damage done to Tournahau. He said patients can save about a third of the cost by having surgery in Mexico, but he urged against bargain shopping for health care.


"It's sort of counter-intuitive that you would spend your earned income getting surgery in a third world country," La Jolla Dr. Richard Chaffoo said.


In difficult economic times, more people are heading south of the border for cheaper surgical procedures, something Chaffoo said is a big mistake. He suggested that patients insist on having surgery performed in a licensed and accredited hospital or clinic.


Tournahau's surgery would have cost her about $15,000 if it had been performed north of the border, but it would have saved her from a great deal of misery.


"It's not just your money, but your life that's at stake," Chaffoo said. "You're better to stay close to home."


 Chaffoo said patients should look for a surgeon certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and make sure they are a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.