Nov. 25, 2011 -- The demand for a bigger bootie is growing, and with that demand has come a plethora of dangerous botched surgeries to match.
A Baltimore exotic dancer was hospitalized after complaining of shortness of breath following a buttocks implant injection. The silicone from the implants had actually traveled to her lungs and the unidentified woman was treated for pneumonia.
According to court documents obtained by the Smoking Gun, Kimberly Smedley, 45, of Atlanta administered the injections. In October, police arrested her in a Washington D.C. hotel, where the cops reportedly found three 18-gauge medical needles in her possession.
This case is only the most recent butt-boost horror story to hit the headlines. Florida police arrested 30-year-old Oneal Ron Morris last Friday after, they claimed, Morris injected at least one person's butt with a combination of cement, glue and tire sealant. In February, British tourist Claudia Aderotimi died after receiving a cosmetic buttocks injection at a Hampton Inn in Southwest Philadelphia.
"This is tragic because the fault basically lies on both ends," said Dr. George Lefkovits, a Manhattan-based plastic surgeon who performs buttocks augmentation in his practice. "Obviously, it lies on these unscrupulous quacks who have absolutely no morals at all to inject lethal poisons in people's bodies, but the fault also lies with these victims, who are looking for bargains and not doing proper research."
Lefkovits said buttocks augmentation beats out even breast implants and liposuction as the number one operation in his practice. The demand may be an indicator of an overall growing trend for bigger booties.
According to the American Society for Plastic Surgeons, the buttocks procedures were up more than 140 percent from 2000 to 2010.
Why? Lefkovits said that while he has clients of all ethnicities and backgrounds, there is a strong cultural component to the butt lift.
"To a certain extent, it's cultural," said Lefkovits. "The two most common ethnic groups I see are African Americans and Latinos. Some people are so desperate for a bigger butt, they don't even want to go outside. They feel ashamed because their culture seems to demand it."
While, of course, that is not the case for all people of those specific races, Lefkovits said pop culture icons like Jennifer Lopez, Kim Kardashian and Nicki Minaj have made big buttocks an even more desirable and appreciated asset.
But fat fillers are the typical procedure for buttocks augmentations, not silicone injections. After coming under fire, the FDA deemed silicone implants safe in 2006, but Dr. Malcolm Roth, president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, said it is likely a different kind of silicone than breast implants. The silicone breast implants are encased by a solid outer layer to prevent the tiny particles from spreading through the body and causing infections.
"When silicone is being injected as a filler, it's always been a problem. Plus, this is likely not medical grade silicone," said Roth. "It probably isn't sterile and there are a lot of potential infections and skin gangrene. If it travels through the blood stream, it can and will go to other organs."
The medical-grade liquid version of the silicone is only approved for detached retinas, according to the FDA.
"Silicone is a gel that's injected, but composed of small particles," continued Roth. "It can get absorbed by white blood cells and get taken up into the blood stream and travel through the blood vessels and into the lymph nodes and other organs."
"So, really, not only is it not good because it's not being done by a certified plastic surgeon, it's because it's being done at all," said Roth.
When it comes to plastic surgery and cost, Roth said the old adage rings very true: If it's too good to be true, it probably is.
There are currently four states --California, Texas, Louisiana and Florida -- that have passed legislation to require truth in medical education. He hopes to see the laws passed in all 50 states.
"If someone advertises they're a plastic surgeon, it has to say what their core training is," said Roth. "So, for example, if someone says they're a plastic surgeon but they're trained as a gynecologist, the public needs to see that. If they're not a doctor, that should be clear, too."
Roth encouraged anyone seeking any type of plastic surgery to visiting the American Society of Plastic Surgeons website to find certified plastic surgeons in their area.