Cosmetic surgery: The real dangers of fat injections

In recent years, people have embraced the fact that they can change their bodies through surgery. In fact, millions of Americans undergo cosmetic surgery every year, some for medical reasons and others for purely personal gain.

To reconstruct their bodies, though, some surgeons perform fat transfers, taking fat from one area of the body and injecting it into another. These fat injections come with multiple risks, and patients should fully research them before making a decision.

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In one man’s case, the cosmetic surgery did not go as he had planned and, in fact, turned unexpectedly deadly. According to a recent report in the Journal of Forensic Sciences, a 30-year-old Swedish man went in for a two-part surgery to enhance his penis.

During the procedure, the doctors were supposed to remove fat from one area of the man’s body and transfer it for penis enlargement. Unfortunately, the surgery took a turn for the worse. Once the doctors injected the fat, this relatively healthy man went into cardiac arrest and died one hour later.

Upon further investigation, officials discovered that the man had suffered a pulmonary fat embolism. The injected fat had traveled through his bloodstream to the lungs where it ruptured the man’s blood vessels. Though unintentional, this healthy man had shortened his life through a dangerous elective procedure.

Fat Embolism

While fat embolisms can occur in other scenarios, such as in trauma cases, they are a real risk in cosmetic surgeries. Several cosmetic surgeries use these fat injections to enhance or plump various parts of a person’s body.

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For example, a Brazilian butt lift has grown in popularity recently, but several surgeries have ended in fat embolism. It can happen easily. If the injection gets into a person’s blood vessel, the surgery can turn life-threatening quickly.

If this complication occurs, the patient may experience an onset of symptoms quite suddenly. These include irregular heartbeat, trouble breathing, and fever.

A blood test may also show low iron and platelet counts. In addition, small hemorrhages may occur in the neck, shoulders, or armpits since the fat may be blocking blood vessels in these areas.

In another case of an elective plastic surgery gone awry, a 29-year-old woman from West Virginia died during her surgery for a Brazilian butt lift. In May 2016, Heather Meadows had driven with a friend to Encore Plastic Surgery in Florida to undergo the surgery. During the procedure, however, Meadows went into cardiac arrest.

Although the doctors reacted quickly to the situation, rushing her to the hospital, Meadows was pronounced dead when she arrived. Officials reported later that she had died because of a fat embolism coupled with an underlying heart defect.

Risks of Fat Injections

While these cases are worst-case situations, cosmetic surgeries in which the surgeon performs a fat injection do have multiple risks. According to one plastic surgery site, fat transfer for Brazilian butt lifts can result in excessive loss of blood, blood clots, deep vein thrombosis, infection, necrosis (death of fat tissue), and other serious risks.

As if this list weren’t enough, patients also risk dissatisfaction with the surgery’s results. In this particular surgery, patients might get more cellulite or an asymmetrical look, negating the reason for the procedure in the first place. They may even need a reparative surgery later on.

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In the case of male enhancement surgery, patients are taking multiple risks. They’re essentially allowing a surgeon to perform a major invasive surgery on their genitals. If the surgery doesn’t go as planned, men may find themselves battling erectile dysfunction and dissatisfaction with the way they look.

Mayo Clinic urologist Tobia Kohler told USA Today, “It’s a completely useless procedure that never works and disfigures men, and could kill you.”

Then, referring to the 30-year-old Swedish man’s death Kohler said, “This is the worst case, but there are lots of other horrible consequences, from disfigurement to permanent erectile dysfunction to even worse.”

While people may dream about the satisfaction they would get from enhancing part of their body, they should do all their research ahead of time. Generally, if they can avoid surgery, they should since all surgeries come with risks. In cosmetic surgeries that use fat injections, the stakes may rise a little higher than expected. Even if only minor complications happen, patients may not like the results they get. Some things are just better left alone.

This article first appeared on AskDrManny.com.

Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel's senior managing health editor. He also serves as chairman of the department of obstetrics/gynecology and reproductive science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. For more information on Dr. Manny's work, visit AskDrManny.com.