Health & Wellness

Price of Beauty: Benefits, risks both at play with trendy plastic surgeries

NBC Universal, Inc.

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons says there were 26.2 million surgical or minimally invasive procedures performed in the U.S. in 2022, up 19% since 2019.

With the prevalence of “before” and “after” photos filling social media feeds, NBC Chicago looked into some of the trendy procedures and asked Dr. Amir Dorafshar, a board-certified plastic surgeon, in Chicago for his take on some of the top trends.

One is a face thread lift, also called a “lunchtime lift” where an absorbable suture is used to tighten the face and neck.  

“I don’t do threads because I don’t think they last very long,” Dorafshar said.

Buccal fat pad removal is another popular procedure, where fat is removed from the lower cheek area to emphasize the cheekbones.

“The buckle fat pad I do cautiously, because I'm concerned over time at how that may affect facial aging,” Dorafshar said.

There’s also a gluteal fat transfer, also known as a “Brazilian butt lift,” which is when a physician performs liposuction, removing fat from one area, which is then injected into the buttocks.

“I think that's an area that I think all plastic surgeons are cautious about,” Dorafshar said.

The reason surgeons are cautious is because of the number of deaths linked to the BBL procedure.

One such study found 25 patients died from fat embolism related to BBL procedures in South Florida between the years of 2010 and 2022.

Michael Baumeiester’s wife, Lattia, was one of them. Lattia Baumeister, 30, traveled from Chicago to the Miami area in 2017 for a BBL and died from a fat embolism.

“I would caution women, do your research, do your due diligence but really plan this out and think about the consequences, good and bad,” said Michael Baumeister.

Tanesha Walker from Gary, Indiana died in 2022 after a BBL in South Florida as well.

“It's travel tourism, essentially trying to go to other places to get this surgery at a low cost,” Dorafshar said. “I think there are some legal protections that are placed in Florida that allow a multitude of surgeons and some of them may not necessarily be board certified plastic surgeons performing this procedure.”

Florida lawmakers did pass a plastic surgery law that took effect in July 2023. In addition to limiting the number of surgeries per day, it mandates the use of ultrasound during a BBL, which allows a physician to better monitor the fat injections and avoid injecting fat into muscle, which can cause a fat embolism when the fat travels to the heart, lungs or even the brain, with often fatal results.

While researching surgeons to perform a tummy tuck, Roberta Hiett from Lincolnshire found online forums touting international destinations for plastic surgery.

“Turkey is very prevalent, Colombia is very prevalent, Dominican Republic, Mexico,” Hiett said.

Sucretta Tolliver flew from Chicago to the Dominican Republic in 2022 for a cosmetic procedure. The mother and business owner died two days later.

It’s the access care after the procedure that Dr. Dorafshar advises patients to consider.

“When they go away somewhere and they run into complications that they didn't expect and they come up, come back over here, they often end up in the emergency room,” Dorafshar said.

Dorafshar said in the U.S., updated safety protocols are now in place for BBL procedures, recommended by the Aesthetic Society.

“Generally speaking, American board-certified plastic surgeons are aware of these recommendations and implement them,” Dorafshar said.

That’s why anyone considering any elective plastic surgery should do their homework.

If you’re considering plastic surgery, experts recommend you look for one certified the American Board of Plastic Surgery or the American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. Some plastic surgeons are also certified by the American College of Surgeons

Contact Us