If you’ve been online in the past few years, you have seen a handful of influencers and celebrities who have gone under the knife for the latest cosmetic craze: the Brazilian Butt Lift or BBL. But this surgery has a high risk of complications. So, why is the Brazilian butt lift so dangerous?
History of Cosmetic Surgery
Getting cosmetic surgery to try to attain societal beauty standards is nothing new. Some of the first plastic surgeries recorded in America took place during the 1700s, often to treat facial injuries due to the terrible effects of war.
Since its early beginnings, all kinds of cosmetic surgeries have come in and out of style alongside fashion trends and beauty standards. Whether it was liposuction to achieve the ‘heroin chic’ look popular among fashion models of the 1990s or the steady rise of anti-aging procedures — we are no strangers to enduring pain and suffering in the name of ‘beauty.’
What Is a Brazilian Butt Lift?
The Brazilian Butt Lift (BBL) is actually a misnomer. It was not originally invented in Brazil, does not actually create much lifting and involves much more than just the butt. A BBL is done by sucking fat out of the lower back, the hip, and the posterior thighs and then transferring that fat to the buttocks. So it really is contouring all of these areas to emphasize a certain silhouette style that includes prominent buttocks.
The procedure for a BBL begins with liposuction to collect fat from other parts of the body — usually from the stomach, thighs, upper arms, and back. Then the doctor reinjects this fat into the buttocks to fill it out and reshape it. The desired effect of the surgery is usually a slimmer waist, flatter abdomen, and larger, rounder butt.
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons report showed that the number of people undergoing a BBL more than doubled between 2012 and 2017.
This is likely related to an increasing focus on shapely butts in the media, popularized by celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Jennifer Lopez and perpetuated by social media models and influencers. Yet alongside its growing popularity, many in the field are concerned about the procedure’s apparent risks and extremely high fatality rate.
Why Is the Brazilian Butt Lift So Dangerous?
The BBL is one of the fastest-growing types of cosmetic surgery in the United States, but not everyone is enthusiastic about this trend. The BBL is known to have one of the highest death rates of all cosmetic procedures and may be as high as 1 death in every 3,000 surgeries.
The most common cause of death following a BBL is a complication known as a fat embolism. A fat embolism happens when fat cells travel into the bloodstream and block a blood vessel, usually due to poor surgical technique. If a fat embolism blocks a vessel in the lungs, oxygen cannot effectively enter the bloodstream. If it blocks a vessel in the brain, it can cause a stroke. Both of these outcomes of a fat embolism can cause death. One study on BBL surgeries suggested a leading cause was damage to blood vessels in the butt, which allowed fat to enter the bloodstream. Precision is a key factor for safe BBL. Surgeons must inject fat cells only into fat deposits near the skin and avoid injecting them into the deeper fat tissue or the muscle.
One of the dangers of getting ‘trendy’ surgeries like the BBL is that not all surgeons are equally qualified and experienced. Surgeons with little expertise can jump on the latest surgical bandwagon, hoping to share in the profit of this popular procedure. The Aesthetic Surgery Education and Research Foundation Task Force found that the high demand for the procedure has led to unqualified, inexperienced surgeons offering the surgery in non-approved settings. They are often appealing to patients by offering a lower price point.
Poorly trained surgeons are more likely to inject the grafted fat cells incorrectly, leading to a higher risk of embolism. Having this complex and risky surgery in poorly regulated settings can also increase the risk of other potentially fatal complications like sepsis and gangrene.
Another inquiry found that the majority of fatal BBl surgeries took place towards the end of the week, suggesting surgeon fatigue may be a factor. There is a recommended limit of 3 BBL cases as a maximum amount of total operative cases per day.
Since this recommendation, there has been a drop in surgeons who reported injecting into deep muscles. There is also a decrease in death rates.
Brazilian Butt Lift Surgery: Is the Risk Worth It?
Even in the most professional settings, all surgeries have some inherent risk. So, how can you weigh up the pros and cons, risks, and benefits of this procedure to decide if it is worth it for you?
The price for a BBL surgery can vary widely depending on where you go for the procedure. The average cost of a BBL is $4,807 in the US. This cost does not include fees for the doctor providing the anesthesia, operating room fees, or other costs associated with the recovery process for the surgery.
Costs for BBL surgery will depend on the experience and expertise of the surgeon, the specifics of the surgery desired, and your location. Laws determining who can perform BBLs are not well regulated, so if you decide the risks are worth the potential benefits, be very careful in your search for a surgeon.
Look for a board-certified plastic surgeon and ensure you feel confident in their skills and abilities. Be cautious of doctors who gloss over or minimize the potential risks, and ensure you are comfortable with the preparation and recovery protocols to prevent any complications. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about safety precautions, including specifics about how your doctor takes care to prevent fat embolisms and infections.
Whether the risks outweigh the benefits of getting a BBL is a personal decision. For some, you may wish to consider lower-risk alternatives or decide to forgo them altogether. If you still want to get a BBL, adequate research is very important. The plastic surgery industry relies heavily on self-regulation, so it is crucial to go to a reputable, experienced surgeon if you want to have a BBL.
- “A Changing Paradigm: The Brazilian Butt Lift Is Neither Brazilian Nor a Lift—Why It Needs To Be Called Safe Subcutaneous Buttock Augmentation” via Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
- “Practice Advisory on Gluteal Fat Grafting” via Aesthetic Surgery Journal
- “Improvement in Brazilian Butt Lift (BBL) Safety With the Current Recommendations from ASERF, ASAPS, and ISAPS” via Aesthetic Surgery Journal
- “Plastic Surgery Societies Issue Urgent Warning About the Risks Associated with Brazilian Butt Lifts” via The American Society of Plastic Surgeons
- “Buttock augmentation with fat grafting – aka the Brazilian butt lift” via The American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
- History of ASPS via The American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
- “Report on Mortality from Gluteal Fat Grafting: Recommendations from the ASERF Task Force” via Aesthetic Surgery Journal.
- “Brazilian Butt Lift” Performed by Board-Certified Brazilian Plastic Surgeons: Reports of an Expert Opinion Survey: via Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Journal
- “Deaths Caused by Gluteal Lipoinjection: What Are We Doing Wrong?” via Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Journal
- “Report on Mortality from Gluteal Fat Grafting: Recommendations from the ASERF Task Force” via Aesthetic Surgery Journal
- “Find a Plastic Surgeon Near Me” via The American Society of Plastic Surgeons
- “Buttock Enhancement Cost” via The American Society of Plastic Surgeons.