Toxic Butt-Boosting Injections: Why Is It Still Happening?

VIDEO: When Plastic Surgery Goes Wrong
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It's not the first time patients have allegedly been harmed by a risky, unapproved approach to a larger, curvier backside -- and it probably won't be the last.

So say cosmetic surgeons in response to the latest news of another untrained practitioner -- this time a 28-year-old model in New Brunswick, N.J. -- facing charges of practicing medicine without a license in offering butt-boosting injections, according to reports this week in the Star-Ledger.

Anivia Cruz-Dilworth allegedly injected six women in the buttocks with silicone bathtub caulk in March. The women reportedly showed up in hospital emergency rooms complaining of problems, several requiring surgery to treat serious bacterial infections.

"Her actions caused a lot of harm," Assistant Prosecutor Peter Sepulveda of the Essex County Prosecutor's Office told the Newark paper. "One woman had to undergo five separate hospitalizations and multiple surgeries as a result of the injuries sustained from the unlawfully performed buttocks injections."

Illegal butt-boosting procedures have sent other women in Florida to the hospital in recent years as well. Ana Josefa Sevilla, 54, was charged in September with practicing medicine without a license in connection with a woman she allegedly treated at a Miami spa.

Authorities in Tampa arrested Sharhonda Lindsay, 33, in January 2009 for allegedly injecting two acquaintances with a product believed to be a homemade combination of commercial silicone gel and saline.

Cosmetic surgeons said the occurrence of such procedures is evidence that much of the public remains uneducated about the difference between the risky, unapproved practice and legitimate cosmetic surgery. For some, they say, the promise of a quick fix can be all too tempting.

Economy, Ignorance Factor Into Risky Procedure's Popularity

"This is a real problem, especially with the slow economy," said Dr. Julius Few, commissioner of cosmetic medicine for the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.

"More people are trying to achieve an enhancement, all over the body, the 'easy way,' and large volume silicone injections to the buttock is an example. It seems easy, you see the change right away, and it is cheap because industrial-grade material is used, not medical."

Still, even "cheap" procedures can cost hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars per session.

Dr. Garry Brody, professor emeritus of plastic surgery at the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine in Los Angeles, said, "Silicone caulking is usually used to caulk bathtubs and many ignorant folks -- including lawyers that I have met -- think that silicone is silicone is silicone."

Brody compares the term "silicone" to the generic term "oils." In other words, while there are some oils used to cook food, it would not be wise to use motor oil for the same purpose.

More often than not, the industrial-grade material used in these procedures leads to serious problems. Dr. Rhoda Narins, a clinical professor of dermatology at the New York University School of Medicine, said at the time of the Miami case that such unfortunate cases are an all-too-common result of people seeking cosmetic enhancement at the hands of untrained professionals.

"I have treated patients who had horrible results with permanent disfigurement after injection in spas and homes of commercial grade silicone by unlicensed technicians," Narins said. "These unlicensed people inject large amounts of a substance that clearly says on its website that it is not to be injected into animals or humans.

"There have been deaths in Florida from commercial grade silicone with injection into blood vessels of large amounts of [this] product," she said.

Illegal Buttock Augmentation a Growing Problem

The reports suggest buttocks enhancement is a growing trend, as women strive to emulate celebrities known for ample posteriors.

At licensed medical practices, the procedures make up only a small number of all cosmetic procedures performed. About 5,000 buttock or gluteal implants were performed in 2009, compared with 2 million Botox injections and 311,957 breast augmentations.

But buttock augmentation was up 37.5 percent in 2009 from the previous year and buttock lifts were up 34.6 percent, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.

Dr. Terry Myckatyn, plastic and reconstructive surgeon at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, said the reasons someone would seek out a buttock augmentation procedure range from significant weight loss to an injury that has led to buttock atrophy.

"On the other hand, other individuals may possess buttocks that appear of normal proportion to most individuals and have not sustained some fluctuation in body weight or injury," Myckatyn said. "These individuals may be trying to achieve some form of ideal dictated by the ideal buttock appearance as dictated by trends in pop culture, or in other cases due to perceived ethnic norms."

In all too many cases, people seeking buttocks enhancement don't seek out important information on the procedures.

"They'll use the advice of a friend and not do their research," said Dr. Phil Haeck, president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. "Too often we hear, people went to a spa and they never saw a doctor. It's beyond belief what you hear people will do without at least checking credentials."

Haeck said there is little regulation of which medical "professionals" can do injections. So even if a consumer goes to an medical doctor, Haeck recommends asking tough questions:

"Where were you trained? Do you have a state license in a medical specialty and is it posted?" Haeck suggested, adding that patients should also ask how many of the same procedures the doctor has done before.

Even if an assistant ends up injecting Botox, Haeck said, patients should be alarmed if a doctor has never taken their medical history, or if they can't tell that the needles have been sanitized.

Warning Signs of Risky Buttock Augmentation Procedures

Few, of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, offered the following tips to lessen the risk of being harmed by an unlicensed practitioner or an unapproved product:

The primary thing to remember is knowing who is doing the injecting and what setting are they injecting. Patients ideally need to be seen by a board certified plastic surgeon or dermatologist, when considering injections of any kind.

The patient should not be afraid to ask to see the box for a given injectable or get a copy of the stock number for the given injectable, if they are uncertain about the injection product for the face.

One should ask "is the product FDA-approved for the purpose you are planning to use?" If not, "what are the safety concerns" or "what are the risks for me using this product?"

Classic red flags include injections offered in a non-traditional setting, like someone's home or mall; a person offering treatments without making you aware of the risk and benefits; unwillingness to discuss your options; or the person insisting there are no risks. There is no such a thing in medicine.

For more information on how to avoid risky cosmetic injections, check out www.injectablesafety.org.

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