The Most Dangerous Place to Get Plastic Surgery, Surgeons Warn

According to surgeons, one particular procedure causes regular complications.

Plastic surgery is more popular than ever. Each year, providers complete millions of procedures, from minimally invasive in-office treatments like fillers and Botox to complex surgical operations like rhinoplasties and tummy tucks. In most cases, these procedures go off without a hitch. However, there are always risks involved when you go under the needle or knife. Wondering which procedures are most perilous? Here, plastic surgeons reveal the most dangerous place to get plastic surgery.

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The most dangerous place to get plastic surgery is the buttocks.

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The experts we consulted agreed that gluteal fat grafting—more commonly called a Brazilian butt lift (BBL)—is currently the most dangerous plastic surgery procedure. Although the hourglass figure this procedure can help create is highly coveted, it may not be worth the risk. According to board-certified plastic surgeon Samuel Lin, MD, "death may happen as frequently as one in every 2,351 BBLs."

Obviously, those aren't the best odds. However, Lin notes that the BBL remains extremely popular and more than 21,000 were performed by board-certified surgeons in the U.S. in 2020.

BBLs can cause a pulmonary fat embolism.

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According to board-certified Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Ariel Ourian, MD, a BBL is when fat is harvested from unwanted areas, such as the love handles, and injected into the buttocks for a more curvaceous and projected shape.

Unfortunately, things can easily go wrong. When the fat is injected into the buttocks, it can sometimes enter the larger blood vessels in the gluteal area. "The fat then ends up in the lungs, which can cause problems with breathing, and, in severe cases, death," says Ourian. The complication is called a "pulmonary fat embolism."

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The procedure can be completed safely.

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Just because the BBL is a risky procedure doesn't mean it can't be executed safely in the proper hands. "Recommendations for these procedures should be made on an individual basis since there are many factors that would make them more or less safe," says Lin. "For example, it is important that a surgeon performing a BBL is experienced in the procedure and trained in the safest techniques."

Lin notes that patient-related factors can also contribute to the safety of a BBL. Those with a history of smoking or blood clots may not be good candidates for the procedure. If your doctor says you're high risk, it's best to listen. "Sometimes, a surgeon may not perform a procedure if they think it is too unsafe in an individual situation," says Lin.

BBLs are getting safer.

young doctor talking to patients
Shutterstock / Drazen Zigic

As the medical community becomes more familiar with BBLs, the procedure has become somewhat less risky. "The American Society of Plastic Surgeons has created a task force to publish guidelines on how plastic surgeons can perform this operation safely," says Ourian. "Thankfully, in the hands of a plastic surgeon, these complications are rare."

If you do choose to get a BBL, experts discourage medical tourism—something that BBL patients have sought out frequently in the past. "Complications may arise with any surgery, even cosmetic surgery, which requires prompt attention from your plastic surgeon to prevent further issues," says board-certified plastic surgeon William Albright, MD. Instead, "go somewhere where follow-up and post-operative care are included and encouraged."

Taking these extra precautions will ensure your procedure is completed as safely as possible and that you are satisfied with the results.

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Juliana LaBianca
Juliana is an experienced features editor and writer. Read more
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