Cosmetic Surgery Desperation and Depression

Korean case shocked the globe, but U.S. doctors report horrors in bad economy.

ByABC News
November 13, 2008, 5:29 PM

Nov. 14, 2008— -- Hang Mioku's last act in her 20-year addiction to plastic surgery made her infamous: She picked up a syringe, filled it with cooking oil and injected into her own face.

Mioku's extreme act and the resulting disfigurement made international headlines. She told the Korean media that she turned to cooking oil because she had run out of the silicone a doctor had given her to perform injections at home.

Doctors already frown upon silicone injections as a hazardous, ineffective practice; when the story first broke in the West, the U.K. Telegraph marveled: "Amazingly, she found a doctor who was willing to give her silicone injects and, what's more, he then gave her a syringe and silicone of her own so she could self-inject."

Cosmetic and plastic surgeons in the United States aren't all that amazed that Mioku went to the lengths she did. While most in search of an improved look aren't as desperate as Mioku, plastic surgeons report fixing more mistakes as people turn to similar do-it-yourself procedures and get cut-rate jobs by unqualified physicians.

Some doctors make a good living fixing botched surgeries, calling the repair work "revisions." Other doctors only take on revisions when the mistake is extreme and the patient needs expert help.

"I once revised somebody who wanted an enhancement and had the breast injected with liquid silicone, not even by a physician," said Dr. Malcolm Z Roth, director of plastic surgery at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Roth said the silicone in this case was different from the silicone used in legitimate breast implants and had resulted in "hard, lumpy, painful, irregularly shaped breasts."

"It can migrate, or go to other parts of the body. It can cause noncancerous growths," he said. To lessen the woman's chronic pain, Roth said he essentially performed a mastectomy and started from scratch.

Dr. Craig A. Vander Kolk, a professor of plastic surgery at Johns Hopkins University and director of cosmetic surgery at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, has had his fair share of botched injections and face-lifts to treat.

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"I saw one patient --she got an infection, ended up with a scarring and a facial nerve damaged," said Kolk. "Her face was lopsided, she couldn't move the corner of her mouth and she had terrible scars."

"It was just like flaps of skin," said Angel. "I had indents around my right breast, all around my areola. If you put your finger in it was as like Play-Doh."

That was her description after doctors corrected her first botched breast enhancement. Angel said it all started in 2000, with a Christmas gift from her ex-fiance.

"I didn't have bad breasts to start with, I was 90 pounds and I was a small 32B," she said. "But I was dating somebody who wanted big boobs." A size D to be exact.

Angel said everything went well until three months after her surgery.

"My right breast became hard to the touch and I couldn't lie on my side because it was so painful. Instead of being round, it started looking square in areas," Angel said. "It just looked deformed."

Angel later found out she had a capsule contracture, or shrinking scar tissue around the breast.