With an estimated fatality rate of 1:3000, the Brazilian Butt Lift (BBL) is the focus of key professional Plastic Surgery societies around the world with the Australasian Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (ASAPS) supporting the creation of an international Patient Safety Task Force and creating it’s own headed by Dr Tim Papadopoulos, Specialist Plastic Surgeon and past President of ASAPS, to investigate the risks of this popular cosmetic procedure.
An increase in the number of severe complications seen occuring with the BBL is of great concern. The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery suggests there was an increase of 26% from 2016 to 2017, in the number of patients undergoing this procedure. This makes it one of the most trending procedures, however it has also highlighted the large number of patients suffering complications after having the procedure, or worse, death.
The American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS), the International Society of Plastic and Regenerative Surgeons and the International Federation for Adipose Therapeutics and Science have all joined forces to create an Inter-Society Buttock Fat Grafting Task Force with the primary role of investigating the risks, complications and deaths relating to BBL. In their media release Dr Papadopoulos says the societies have recognised the high death rate for the procedure and that action must be taken now in order to prevent further tragedies from occuring. He says, “The Task Force is concerned with the high mortality rate of this operation and is aggressively investigating ways to make this procedure safer. This new warning emphasises the continued risk that is being encountered with this procedure. Patient safety is the highest priority for plastic surgeons and this multi-society task force is an important and unprecedented collaboration.”
The rate of death for this procedure is higher than any other cosmetic surgery by a long shot. The Aesthetic Surgery Education and Research Foundation noted in a 2017 report that there had been at last 25 fatalities from the procedure from 2012 to 2017 just in the US alone. Although there has not yet been any reported cases of death from BBL in Australia this is probably due to the procedure not being as popular here yet. For those Aussies that are having the procedure they are also a lot more conservative when it comes to how much fat they are wanting transferred. However, as with any other trending procedure unfortunately it is only a matter of time before untrained and unqualified practitioners start offering the procedure without appropriate knowledge of what can go wrong. As is the same with this procedure overseas, untrained doctors started offering this procedure without knowing the associated risks. If a doctor offers this procedure without knowing the potential risks, they also will not know what to look for if, or when, a patient gets into trouble or has a complication.
So, what are the actual risks and complications with the Brazilian Butt Lift procedure?
The BBL procedure involves fat being liposuctioned from donor areas on a patient’s body then injected into the patient’s buttocks. Some surgeons inject the fat into the muscle instead of the fat layer just below the skin and reports show that every single patient who has died from this complication has had the fat injected beneath the muscle. It only takes a small error of judgement from the surgeon for the patient to end up in a life-threatening situation.
We asked Dr Justin Perron, Specialist Plastic Surgeon based in Brisbane QLD to talk us through some of the finer details of the BBL procedure.
Dr Perron says, “Complications with the BBL procedure can happen when little particles of fat enter the patient’s major vein that runs from the pelvis to the heart (inferior vena cava). The fat injected into the buttock muscle (gluteus maximus) can also enter some of the larger veins in this muscle. The gluteal vein connects to larger veins that eventually lead to the heart, and fat that collects in the heart can very quickly cause a patient’s heart to stop!
“There are techniques that prevent the risk of injecting fat into the patients veins in the gluteus muscle. This involves having knowledge of the anatomy of the gluteus muscle, the blood supply, and knowing how to avoid this potentially life threatening complication.”
The task force will be conducting various tests and investigations to identify best technique and guidelines for plastic surgeons to follow in order to minimise the risks. It goes without saying that patients need to be extremely diligent in choosing a fully qualified and experienced FRACS surgeon to perform this procedure, and is aware of the risks and employs the appropriate techniques to avoid complications.
Dr Perron gave us some advice with regards to choosing a surgeon. “It is important that patients choose their surgeon based on their surgical credentials, and knowledge of this procedure and technique. Patients should be able to openly, and comfortably voice their concerns with their surgeon. With this procedure, their surgeon should have performed this procedure previously, and should be able to show before and after photos. They should also be able to discuss what they do to avoid major complications.
“At the Herstellen Clinic, we do perform the Brazilian Butt Lift (BBL), and well as the Safe Butt Lift technique. The Safe Butt Lift uses the patients buttock tissue, with small amounts of fat grafting to safely enhance the buttock shape.”
Patients should always research their procedure, and surgeon before thinking about having any operation. Having knowledge of a procedure before seeing a surgeon means you can ask questions from an expert in their area. Seeing a few surgeons is never a bad idea either!
We look forward to seeing what the task force can offer to help shape the safety of this procedure.