By Hannah Morrill. Photos: Getty Images.
Unfortunately, this one isn't fake news. Yesterday the Washington Post reported on a fake doctor who got ten years in prison for killing a woman with toxic butt injections. They're referring to the Florida case of Oneal Ron Morris, who pled no contest to manslaughter and practicing without a license. Over the course of a three year period from 2007 to 2011, Morris injected patient Shatarka Nuby ten times with a mixture of cement, mineral oil, bathroom caulking and Fix-a-Flat tire sealant. In 2011, the Post reports that Nuby wrote to the Florida Department of Health, stating that her buttocks had hardened and turned black. In March 2012, Nuby died; a medical examiner found the official cause of death to be respiratory failure from “massive systemic silicone migration” from injections to Nuby’s buttocks and hips.
Morris, who is and was unlicensed and unaccredited, is also unremorseful. "I've been found guilty by the media and outside sources based on lies," she said in a statement to the court. "I have never ever or would dare ever to inject or have injected any human with any type of unknown substance." Of course, that flies in the face of every fact the court uncovered.
The Morris case is sensational, deeply sad, and scary. But it also begs the question: Are any butt implants or injections safe at all? And how on earth can you tell the difference between the good, the bad, and the ones that are made from junk you could buy at Home Depot? Those questions are especially important in light of the 2016 National Plastic Surgery Statistics issued by the American Society of Plastic Surgeon (ASPS), which found that 4,251 buttocks lifts were performed last year, a whopping 213% year-over-year increase since 2000. 2,999 buttocks implant procedures took place in 2016, an 18% increase from 2015. It's important to note that both of those numbers only reflect procedures performed by ASPS member surgeons, and not those done by unlicensed or illegal practitioners like Morris. But as any armchair economist knows, where there's a market there's a black market — in Nuby's case, lethally and quite literally — and if that many legal and authorized procedures took place, the number of dangerous, off-label surgeries and injections is likely staggering.
As we reported in February of last year, butt augmentation, at its very best, is swirled in controversy. First: Understand the basics. A legal butt implant is a procedure, much like breast implants, in which silicone implants are inserted above or below the muscles in the buttocks to enhance the size and shape of the zone. A legal butt lift, on the other hand, can mean one of two things. First, it could be when when a person's own fat — from their thighs, abdomen, or even other parts of the rear — is reinjected into the buttocks. (This is likely the kind of butt lift Morris gave to Nuby .) The second is when a flap of the person's own tissue or fat — most often from the butt, too — is grafted or arranged in a different way on the area. (There is a third kind of butt lift— those performed with dermal fillers like hyaluronic acid — which practitioners like the Los Angeles Simon Ourian, of Kardashian/Jenner fame, perform as an off-label, non-FDA sanctioned usage of the product.)
Of course, all surgical procedures in general have bleeding, healing, scarring, infection, and anesthesia-related concerns. But butt augmentations in particular pose individual challenges."The reoperation rate for gluteal augmentation with implants is 13 to 25 percent,” John Sherman, a surgeon at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City who surveyed studies on the subject, told us in 2013. “You’re putting an implant in a place where there is no anatomical pocket and then constantly sitting on it." And both types of butt lifts are also risky. Fat injections have a significant incidence of embolism, or potentially fatal blood clots. And fat and tissue grafting can often lead to lumpiness, asymmetry, and loss of the fat grafted, Laurie A. Casas, an ABMS certified plastic surgeon and senior clinician educator at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, told us.
Which isn't too say surgeries and butt injections aren't getting safer all the time. They are. A study published last April in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery surveyed 44 articles published since April 2015 on augmentation gluteoplasty, the official name for the two procedures. The survey observed "substantially lower overall complication rates," than previously reported. Even so, the overall complication rate for silicone buttock implants was 21.6 percent; autologous fat grafts were lower at 9.9 percent.
Even at their most serious, most complications resulting from board-certified butt augmentation procedures are not fatal. "What can be fatal is having any procedure done with a non-board certified, non-accredited doctor," Casas says. If you are interested in exploring the procedure, she suggests making sure that your doctor of choice is licensed by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and is in good standing with the American Society for Aesthetic and Plastic Surgery. Another unlikely but wildly helpful resource? Realself.com, a website that gathers reviews, shares before and afters, and posts testimonials on only board certified clinicians. "Safety should always be first priority," she says. "If someone is promising something quicker, cheaper, and with less downtime than anyone else? Well, that's a pretty good sign it's too good to be true." And in this case, too good can have nightmarish consequences.
This story originally appeared on Allure.
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