Claudia Aderotimi, a 20-year-old British woman who died early Tuesday following a hotel room cosmetic buttocks injection, may be yet another casualty of dangerous, corner-cutting enhancement procedures.
Police believe Aderotimi, who was visiting from the U.K. with three friends, received the injection Monday morning at the Hampton Inn in Southwest Philadelphia, local ABC affiliate WPVI-TV reported.
At around 1:30 a.m. Tuesday, medics were called to the hotel in response to Aderotimi's reports of difficulty breathing and chest pains. She was rushed to Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital where she was pronounced dead, WPVI reported.
A complete autopsy was performed by the Delaware County medical examiner, but a cause of death and the details of the report were pending. Aderotimi originally was misidentified by police as Claudia Adusei.
As police question the two women suspected of offering an illegitimate cosmetic service, plastic surgeons renewed public warnings concerning non-approved facilities and non-certified cosmetic practitioners: Cutting corners in hopes of a cheaper nip-tuck is dangerous, and potentially life-threatening.
"This is a distressing, tragic event," said Dr. Malcolm Roth, president-elect of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. "What we want is for patients to learn how to avoid disastrous complications like this. I don't know who performed the procedure. Considering the scenario it was highly unlikely to be a board-certified plastic surgeon ... who should be performing these types of procedures."
Choosing a board-certified physician is just one of many requirements patients should take into account when opting for cosmetic procedures, plastic surgeons said. Whether going under the knife or having an injection of some sort, there are numerous requirements that any prospective patient should evaluate in order to minimize risk of adverse, potentially lethal effects.
Cheap Tricks: the Dangers of 'Bargain' Cosmetic Procedures
Being offered a medical procedure in the very non-medical environment of a hotel room may seem like an instant safety red flag, but many patients agree to less-than-official settings for cosmetic procedures in the pursuit of cutting costs.
Aderotimi and one of the other women with her came to the U.S. specifically for injectable enhancement procedures, one for hip and buttocks and Aderotimi just for buttocks, police said. Aderotimi paid $1,800 for the procedure, which is only a fraction of what she would have paid for a similar procedure in the U.K., WPVI reported.
Aderotimi certainly is not the first victim of the promise of a curvier derriere for less.
Just last month, a Bronx woman, Whalesca Castillo, 36, who has no medical or nursing license, was arrested for running an illegal business out of her home injecting women with liquid silicone in the buttocks and breast since at least 2009, according to the Department of Justice.
This summer, a Miami woman, Ana Josefa Sevilla, 54, was charged with a similar crime after one of clients ended up in the ER.
Numerous other operations and/or botched surgery victims around the country have been reported in the past few years as the drive to surgically emulate curvaceous celebrities leads many women to sacrifice safety for affordability.
"We've heard of people having caulk or industrial grade silicone, neither of which is approved for use anywhere in the body, injected into their buttocks," said Dr. Felmont Eaves, a North Carolina-based plastic surgeon and president of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. "There are safe ways to augment the buttocks -- fat grafts usually work extremely well, but obviously you want someone who is board-certified to do that procedure."
"Plastic surgeons in the U.S. are seeing an increasing number of disastrous complications when patients see someone who is not appropriately trained," said Roth.
Ironically, the cost to fix the botched procedures is usually more than the cost would have been if "they had gone to the right person in the first place," he added. "More importantly, sometimes those complications are irreversible or life-threatening."
Know Your Doc, Know Your Spot: Points for Patient Safety
First and foremost in choosing a practitioner, cosmetic procedures should only be performed by those who are board certified in plastic surgery or in some cases dermatology, surgeons said.
While in some states, doctors in other specialties, such as pediatrics or radiology, can legally become certified to perform certain procedures, those doctors have not undergone the rigorous, five-plus years of specialization in cosmetic procedures and, thus, will not have board-certification in that area.
Membership in either the American Society for Plastic Surgeons or the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery is a sure-fire test of whether your doc has been board certified and highly trained in the area of cosmetic procedures.
Checking to see if your doctor has hospital privileges is key as well. That means that whatever hospital with which he/she is affiliated agrees that he/she is qualified to perform that procedure, Roth said. And in the case of an adverse reaction, the doctor can transfer you to an emergency room setting and continue to treat you.
In general, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, doctors warn. You can check out the average cost of any procedures at www.infoplasticsurgery.com, so if you've found someone "who is willing to do it for a fraction of the cost, you have to ask yourself, 'Why is that possible and why would I do that?'" said Roth.
Super-cheap rates would be one warning sign. Another would be the state of the facility where the procedure is to take place.
"Any venue that that looks not permanent, like in a strip mall, certainly a hotel -- that should be a huge indicator that this is not someone who is in the business of treating patients in the long-term," said Eaves.
When it comes to injectables, there are many off-label uses of different cosmetic products that might be used properly or improperly depending on the situation, so Dr. Renato Saltz, a board certified plastic surgeon based in Salt Lake City, Utah, suggested checking out the pros and cons and risks of each product at injectablesafety.org.
Then, once at the office, don't be afraid to ask to see the bottle or container and check that it is approved for use by the FDA and is produced in the U.S.
"There are no shortcuts to safe outcomes," Roth added.