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A Brazilian Butt Lift, commonly referred to as a BBL, is a procedure that combines liposuction and fat transfer. It is a way to sculpt the body by removing fat from the places that you don’t want it (such as the abdomen and back) and placing it in the places you do want it (such as the butt and hips). This procedure has been increasing in popularity year after year and is one of the fastest growing procedures in plastic surgery. Recent data suggests that this procedure carries the highest risk of any cosmetic procedure, with the death rate estimated to be 1 in 3000. In these unfortunate cases, the cause of death is a fat embolism, in which fat is inadvertently injected into a blood vessel and it travels to the heart, lungs, and brain, resulting in sudden death. Other less serious complications include infection and fat necrosis, or death of the transferred fat cells resulting in hard lumps.
While fat embolism is a very serious and potentially fatal complication, this risk can be minimized using specific surgical techniques and knowledge of anatomy. The fact of the matter is that you cannot have a fat embolism if you do not inject fat into a blood vessel. Key considerations include proper patient selection, proper patient positioning in the operating room, specific knowledge about the location of the blood vessels that must be avoided during injection of fat, only injecting fat above the buttock muscle, using larger injection cannulas and not fine needles, avoiding overfilling with fat that may allow the fat to leak into blood vessels, ability to rapidly identify this complication in the operating room, and a specific protocol in place that will allow your operating team to immediately treat this complication and prevent death.
It is impossible to prevent all potential complications with any surgery, but selecting a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon with extensive experience with this procedure can greatly minimize the risks. Also, it is important to make sure that this procedure is being performed in either a hospital or in a fully certified and accredited ambulatory setting. This will help ensure that the emergency services are available in the event of any complication. I have personally safely performed over 3,500 BBLs since 2008 and strongly believe that this serious complication is avoidable. Patients motivated mainly by price, are much more likely to select surgeons who are less qualified and less experienced. Unfortunately, the majority of the fatalities that have occurred after this procedure have occurred in hands of poorly qualified or inexperienced surgeons, some of whom are not even Board Certified Plastic Surgeons.
The desire for a rounder and fuller buttock and hips is a trend that continues to grow, so the demand for this procedure will exist for the foreseeable future. The recent negative press about this procedure should not be used to dissuade people from having this procedure. Rather, it should motivate Board Certified Plastic Surgeons to make sure that they are using safe techniques as defined by the special task force, and patients to protect themselves by only selecting Board Certified Plastic Surgeons with extensive experience in this procedure.
Any plastic surgery procedure carries some risk, and the Brazilian Butt Lift is no different. To minimize your risk of serious and potentially fatal complications, you should select a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon with extensive experience in this particular procedure.
Watch this video to learn more about the safety of the BBL procedure from board certified New York City plastic surgeon Matthew Schulman.