South Florida

NBC 6 Investigation Prompts Worldwide Warning About Popular Cosmetic Procedure

Heather Meadows, Christina Thompson, Tola Warren St. Clair, Maribel Cardona, Idell Frazier, Maria Shortfall, Lidvian Zelaya.

These are the women who have died of a fat embolism after undergoing the popular cosmetic procedure called the Brazilian Butt Lift. All died at the hands of different plastic surgeons and clinics in South Florida since 2010.

But there are more.

A new survey just released found that more women are dying or getting hurt from the BBL cosmetic procedure than any other cosmetic surgery performed around the world.

The risk is up to 20 times greater, according to the survey conducted by The Aesthetic Surgery Education and Research Foundation.

The NBC 6 Investigators’ coverage on the deaths and injuries of women at South Florida’s cosmetic surgery clinics sparked interest from a San Diego-based surgeon.

Dr. Mark Mofid and ASERF created a task force to investigate the risk surrounding butt augmentation or BBL, one of the most popular cosmetic procedures performed in the U.S and the world.

"Surgeons need to be aware, first off, that this problem exists," Mofid said.

Dubbed Brazilian Butt Lift, it involves fat grafting or injection.

The patient undergoes liposuction on the stomach or back and is later injected into the backside, leaving the appearance of a larger, firmer behind.

The American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons estimates that approximately 100,000 BBL surgeries have been performed in the United States since 2011.

Mofid’s task force looked into how often and why women are dying. Though the survey was voluntary, a total of 612 surgeons reported that over their careers they performed 198,857 BBL procedures, reporting 32 deaths and 103 non-fatal embolisms cases.

“To my knowledge it’s the highest mortality rate that has ever been published associated with any aesthetic procedure,” Mofid said.

Mofid combined survey results with other data and found more women have died after a BBL than any other cosmetic surgery.

In the survey, Mofid discovered that patients have died from a “fat embolism,” which takes place when fat is injected – often too deeply – into the body hitting blood vessels with surgical instruments.

Once the fat gets into the bloodstream, it can cause the patient to stop breathing.

That’s how each of the seven women in South Florida died.

“Even a single death is a tragic death and it’s something we want to avoid,” the California doctor said.

Mofid said the risk of death decreases if the fat is injected closer to the skin.

“There is a way to do this operation safely,” the surgeon said. “It’s just a matter of making sure the surgeon performing this surgery is familiar with the findings of this study.”

The surgeon is presenting the task force findings to surgeons from all over the world in Japan this week.

Mofid said he hopes that other surgeons performing this type of surgery become familiar with the findings.

“The effort here was to try to make this operation as safe, if not safer, than the other procedures that we offer,” he said.

The task force stresses the analysis has not been independently validated and is based only upon the answers provided by those who responded. The survey results will soon be reviewed by the Aesthetic Surgery Journal.

The Aesthetic Surgery Education and Research Foundation says further research into this issue is "crucial."

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