UK surgeons were strongly warned this week by the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons to stop performing Brazilian butt lifts.
The organization warns that "risky" Brazilian butt lifts, sometimes called BBLs, have the highest death rate of all cosmetic surgery procedures -- estimated to be as high as 1 in 3,000 operations -- and often result in costly emergency complications. This year, two women in the UK have died from the procedure, according to the BBC.
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"This risk has galvanised the BAAPS to distribute a recommendation to all members, suggesting they refrain from performing BBLs, at least until more data is available," the association said in a statement Thursday.
The surgery involves taking fat from another part of the body and injecting it into the buttocks for a better shape, but doing so brings a risk of injecting fat into large veins, after which it can travel to the heart or brain, causing illness or death, according to the plastic surgeon group.
"The problem is that at certain volumes of fat injections, the fat can enter the vessels around the buttock area, which forms a fat embolism," said Dr. Mary O'Brien, consultant plastic surgeon and a member of the association's leadership council.
In a global 2017 survey on mortality among Brazilian butt lift patients, 692 surgeons reported 32 deaths due to fat embolisms after these procedures.
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons reported that about 20,300 Brazilian butt lift surgeries took place in 2017, and the number of procedures had more than doubled in the past five years. The society said in August that it was working with other international organizations to conduct studies and establish safety guidelines.
Also in August, the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons issued a warning about the dangers of Brazilian butt lifts, as well as medical tourism, stating that patients risk "serious complications."
Aside from having the highest mortality rate of all cosmetic procedures, this surgery carries many complications. Bacterial infections, such as MRSA or necrosis -- tissue death -- are common. One patient even developed a flesh-eating infection known as necrotizing fasciitis, according to the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons.
One study presented at the association's meeting this week showed a sixfold jump since 2013 in patients visiting one British hospital due to botched surgeries done abroad. Five out of six "major" complications cases were due to Brazilian butt lifts, the study found. Patients stayed on average 20 days in the hospital and cost the health care service 32,500 pounds, about $42,294, according to the study by Mohammed Farid, a junior trainee in plastic and reconstructive surgery.
Farid said in a statement, "it's been staggering to see the lengths -- and the damage -- these patients will go through in the quest for cheaper options."
"I remember in one procedure, we found a piece of latex which had been left inside the patient's buttock! This was one of the most shocking moments in my career, and the one that inspired me to conduct the study," he said.
A 2017 internal survey of British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons members found that four out of five reported an increase in requests for surgeries needed after botched cosmetic procedures.
The most sought-after destination, with a quarter of patients traveling there for low-cost procedures, was Turkey, followed by Belgium, France, Cyprus, Tunisia and Colombia, according to the association. It stated that many British patients who traveled to other countries for treatments would have been ruled out for surgeries at home due to their medical history factors, such as smoking or weight.
Outgoing association President Dr. Simon Withey said in a statement that "vulnerable" patients are targeted online and through social media to travel abroad for less-expensive cosmetic surgery. Away from home, medical histories and psychological health might not be considered, he said. The group noted that it unveiled a psychological screening tool at its annual meeting this week.
"People are experiencing a rude awakening when they arrive back on British shores, many disappointed, and some desperately ill," Withey said.