'Lunchtime Lipo' Draws Concern from Doctors

"She looks at it and she's telling me 'oh my goodness that is so wonderful. All your fat cells have all congregated into one area. If all of our patients were like this, we'd be out of business because you know that fat's just going. You're the perfect person for this.'"

Disaster struck a few days later when that mass in her stomach nearly doubled to the size of a grapefruit. She had a life-threatening staph infection that required emergency surgery to remove a mass of dead tissue. Sheila says she could have died. "I contemplated going the next day. I might have died the next day. I might not have lived," she said. "They don't realize how serious this is and what they're doing to people. It's dangerous."

Doctors Warn Against Lipodissolve

Dr. Alan Gold, a member of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, warned against Lipodissolve. "The two primary chemicals within this are called PC and DC: phosphatidylcholine and deoxycholate," he explained. "There's no standardized formula and other things may be added to those mixtures. At the present time, it is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration."

There are other doctors who also warn against the use of Lipodissolve, such as Dr. Julius Few, a Chicago plastic surgeon who is a member of the Injectable Safety Organization.

Few has treated more than a dozen patients with complications from Lipodissolve, including Hinton. "Whatever substance was injected basically caused the fat and the underlying tissue to die. And then that ultimately killed the skin," he said. "And it's much like what people have talked about with a flesh-eating infection. She will never look exactly the way she did before this treatment."

"20/20" brought hidden cameras to Pure Med Spa in St. Louis, the same spa Hinton visited, to find out how Lipodissolve is being sold. Three ABC staff members went in for consultations and were told they were good candidates for the procedure. The spa employees did warn about some of the temporary side effects of Lipodissolve, such as soreness and bloating in the injection site area. But when asked about other complications, spa employees said the procedure was safe, even telling us it that was approved by the FDA, which it is not. The first FDA approved study of Lipodissolve is only just starting.

Both Clark and Tate had their treatments done at the medi-spa chain FIG, which is now bankrupt. The company refused to comment to "20/20" about its former clients.

And what about Hinton? The medi-spa chain she visited for her Lipodissolve treatments, Pure Med Spa, wouldn't comment about her case or sit down for an interview. When we asked about the misinformation given by its employees, officials e-mailed "20/20," saying, "We make every effort to assure that our employees are fully educated about the procedure, its potential benefits and side effects."

Hinton said Pure Med Spa refunded her money and offered to pay her medical bills, but she has hired a lawyer.

Yee said she was refunded $3,500 from Advanced Lipo and Wellness Center, but the company wouldn't discuss her case with "20/20" either.

The spa's statement about Lipodissolve said, "As with any other injection, there is a risk of infection when the skin is broken. All prospective patients are made aware of risks … prior to treatment."

But Yee said she never expected her stomach would look like this. "Now I'm lopsided. I'm disfigured. There's dimpling on one side, lopsided. It's a mess."

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