NBC 6 Investigators

Surgeons Weigh in on New Rules for BBL Surgeries

The Florida Board of Medicine said one way to prevent deaths related to the procedure is by using an ultrasound machine while performing these surgeries

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The Florida Board of Medicine is meeting later this week to discuss ways to make Brazilian butt lift (BBL) surgeries safer.

This comes following a reported increase in deaths related to the procedure, which prompted the board to mandate surgeons to make changes. 

“The Florida Board of Medicine realized that what’s going on in South Florida is a medical emergency, that we’ve had more BBL deaths last year than ever before,” said Dr. Pat Pazmiño, who is a board certified plastic surgeon. 

The Florida Board of Medicine said one way to prevent deaths related to the procedure is by using an ultrasound machine while performing these surgeries and issued an emergency order earlier this year mandating doctors use one.

Over the years, studies have shown surgeons were unknowingly injecting fat too deep into the patient’s glutes, penetrating the muscle, which could cause a fatal pulmonary embolism. NBC 6 Investigators have reported that more than a dozen deaths have been attributed to this following the procedure. 

Dr. Alex Earle, a board certified surgeon from Miami, has been using the ultrasound machine for almost three years while performing the surgery. 

“I saw the ultrasound as a way of turning this blind procedure into one where you can actually see and know exactly where you’re at…basically turning this procedure into a much safer procedure,” he said. 

Using the ultrasound will take training which Dr. Earle’s office is prepared to host. 

“You do need training. So that’s actually, now that these rules have come about, we’re establishing here one of the first ultrasound-guided fat transfer training centers right here at Pure, and it’s sponsored by the World Association of Gluteal Surgeons,” Earle said.

But not all doctors are on board with this mandate. 

“First of all, the ultrasound technology, we’re not familiar with it. We don’t know it. I’ve never even used an ultrasound in my life,” said board certified plastic surgeon Dr. Constantino Mendieta. 

Dr. Mendieta and several other surgeons appealed the board’s emergency order saying, in part, it was adopted “without providing an opportunity for all relevant parties to be fully heard.”  

The order also limited the amount of BBL surgeries doctors can do to three a day, as a way to avoid fatigue. 

It’s believed fatigue may have contributed to the death of a 33-year-old woman following a BBL that was performed by Dr. John Sampson last summer. She was his seventh patient of the day. 

In a letter sent to the board, his attorney Monica Felder said “...he has looked at the circumstances that may have affected his performance that day, and…he will no longer plan to start procedures after 6 p.m.”

“I don’t think it’s the limitation of the number of procedures that we really have to be focusing on. You’ve never told an ophthalmologist he can only do five cataracts…that is not the solution to this, the solution to this is going to be education,” Mendieta said.

The group of doctors who oppose the new rules, including Mendieta, say we’ve seen more deaths because more BBL surgeries are being done.

The emergency order expires in September and the board would then have to approve something more permanent. They are set to meet this Thursday. 

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