The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) has said it will vote later Friday on whether the procedure popularly known as the Brazilian butt lift is safe enough to be performed in the UK.
An expert panel will assess the latest evidence and decide whether to uphold previous guidance it issued in 2018, which strongly warned surgeons against performing the surgery because of its high fatality rate. If the guidance is upheld it will essentially ban the procedure in the UK, though surgeons could in theory choose to ignore the recommendation.
Concern about the procedure, which has been rising in popularity over the past five years, follows a number of cases of serious illness and death.
Two Britons are known to have died following the surgery, and it is feared that globally the number of fatalities could be in the hundreds, BAAPS president and plastic surgeon Paul Harris told CNN.
The surgery, which can cost in excess of £6,000 (around $7,400) in Britain, involves taking fat from another part of the patient’s body and injecting it into the buttocks, to increase their size and roundness. But there is a risk of injecting the fat into large veins, after which it can travel to the heart or brain, causing a “fat embolism” and illness or death, according to the plastic surgeons’ body.
According to an anonymous 2017 survey of 692 surgeons worldwide, 32 respondents reported fatalities and 103 cited non-fatal cases of fat embolism.
“I am still concerned about patient death,” Harris told CNN, saying people were opting for the procedure to achieve a rounded look or a Kim Kardashian-style figure.
“At this stage there’s no guarantee the fat will not travel (between the muscles, causing potential harm),” he added.
“We don’t know what it’s going to look like in 20 years’ time when we’ve pumped two liters of fat into someone’s buttocks — that’s unknown. One of the questions we’ll ask our members today is: ‘Would you do this to your daughter?’ and if you wouldn’t do it to your daughter, why would you do it to a patient? And most of us wouldn’t do it to our daughter.”
Of particular concern to BAAPS is plastic surgery tourism, because of countries’ varying levels of safety regulation. Harris said the procedure was particularly popular in Latin America, including Brazil and Mexico, and was also performed in Turkey.
“I’ve just had a patient who had this procedure abroad. She didn’t die, but she was septic and in intensive care — and as a result she lost all of her fingers,” he said. “She was in hospital for eight months and had 23 operations. And she’s the lucky one because she survived.”
When considering a ban, Harris said, BAAPS will have to consider carefully whether doing so could push more people to seek treatment overseas, prompting a potentially dangerous “race to the bottom” on costs and patient safety.