Sept. 17, 2010 -- The illegal and dangerous practice of injecting toxic material into the buttocks for cosmetic purposes has surfaced once more in Florida, this time in Miami.
According to a report by Miami ABC News affiliate WSVN-TV, 54-year-old Ana Josefa Sevilla has been charged with practicing medicine without a license. Police told reporters that three months ago Sevilla lured a woman seeking cosmetic enhancement of her buttocks to her place of practice, a Miami spa. Sevilla allegedly claimed to be a licensed doctor who practiced in Los Angeles and had since begun offering services in Miami.
According to the alleged victim, whose identity has not been released, Sevilla charged $1,100 to perform several injections in her buttocks, without anesthesia. The woman says the procedure was botched, and she had to be rushed to the hospital to undergo lifesaving surgery and nearly lost her leg.
Sevilla was arrested and is now out on $5,000 bond, according to local reports.
The case is not the first of its kind in Florida. In January 2009, authorities in Tampa arrested Sharhonda Lindsay, 33, for allegedly injecting two acquaintances with a product believed to be a homemade combination of commercial silicone gel and saline. The women apparently went to Lindsay to enhance the appearance of their buttocks, according to police reports.
According to Debbie Carter, a spokeswoman for the Hillsborough County, Fla., Sheriff's Department, one of the two women who received the injections in the Tampa incident paid $500 for 40 injections into her buttocks, and the other paid $250 for 20 injections. Lindsay -- who is not a doctor -- was also charged with two counts of practicing medicine without a license.
The procedures are not limited to any one state, however. Last March, New Jersey doctors uncovered a black market of cosmetic butt enhancement injections when half a dozen women showed up at hospitals with skin infections and abscesses on their bottoms.
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. Only 4,996 buttock or gluteal implants were performed in 2009, compared to 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 statistics from the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.
The difference between procedures offered by a reputable cosmetic surgeon and those offered by an unlicensed practitioner are immense and concern not only technique, but also the substances in the syringe.
"Usually it's industrial silicone, it's the stuff that you buy at Home Depot," said Dr. Renato Saltz, president of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.
Other doctors have also seen reports of caulk and petroleum jelly injected by black market cosmetic procedure rings.
While infection and toxicity to tissues at the site of injection are a concern, in many cases the injections can even be life-threatening. Saltz warned that injecting unsanitary, unregulated materials can frequently cause serious medical problems.
"They cause tissue death, they can migrate to your lungs and kill you," Saltz said.
In the Tampa case in 2009, the homemade injections had one mother fearing for her daughter's life.
Andrea Lee, 30, and Zakiya Teagle Carswell, 33, both were hospitalized at Tampa's Town and Country Hospital after suffering severe reactions to the shots they received from Lindsay on Jan. 29, 2009.
Lee's mother, Doretha Belnavis, said in a 2009 interview that her daughter began feeling ill around 3 a.m. the day after the injections. Belnavis said her daughter was admitted to the hospital at around 7 a.m., and doctors treated her for life-threatening damage to her kidneys.
Women Wanting Buttocks Augmentation Shoud Do Research
Belnavis said she hopes her daughter's case serves as a warning to others.
"I hope this educates the community and also people having these procedures of the side effects and everything that they can have doing these procedures," she said. "Going to someone who is unprofessional and unlicensed is committing suicide, because you don't know what you're getting. It's playing Russian roulette with your life."
In all too many cases, however, those seeking buttocks enhancement don't do much research on the procedures.
"They'll use the advice of a friend and not do their research," said Dr. Phil Haeck, president-elect 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 there is little regulation of which medical "professionals" can do injections. So even if a consumer goes to an M.D., Haeck recommends asking tough questions:
"Where were you trained? Do you have a state license in a medical specialty and is it posted?" suggested Haeck, 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.
If the women in New Jersey and Florida had researched a bit more, they might have realized that procedures to plump the behind don't typically involve injections of foreign material.
Saltz said doctors mainly use three techniques.
There's "fat injection, sucking fat from your tummy or from your thighs and injecting it into your buttocks," said Saltz. Another technique is called a "butt lift" or "a body lift."
"It's a great technique if a patient loses a lot of weight," said Saltz. "What you do is just lift up and remove the rest of the extra skin.
"Or there's gluteal augmentation using implants," said Saltz.
Those implants may be medical-grade silicone, similar to the ones used in breast augmentation.
Those Seeking Butt Enhancement Should Exercise Caution
But many doctors are seeing lay people who assume anything with the word "silicone" in it means it is the same substance as what plastic surgeons use. The public might even ignore how doctors use silicone in implants.
Dr. Rhoda Narins, a clinical professor of dermatology at the New York University School of Medicine, said 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 Web site 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.