Cosmetic Surgery Cost Savings Luring People to Unlicensed Providers
Last month, headlines around the country announced the death of Delma Pineda, a California woman who had traveled to Miami for cosmetic surgery. Pineda,44, is the eighth person to die because of a cosmetic procedure performed by an unqualified or unlicensed provider in the city since May 2016.
Pineda opted to travel to Miami because of a cheaper price tag for the cosmetic procedures she wanted. She also hoped to reunite with a high school friend from their home country of El Salvador. Pineda's liposuction procedure was performed at CG Cosmetic Surgery in Miami on March 5.
By the end of the next day, she was dead.
Before Pineda's surgery, she was not given a pre-op exam to ensure she was in good health. She was sent for an ultrasound, but the facility was closed when she arrived, and the test never happened. She returned to CG Cosmetic Surgery without the ordered imaging. Despite the lack of exam and missing ultrasound, the staff proceeded with the liposuction procedure without the test.
After her procedure, Pineda's friend picked her up from CG Cosmetic Surgery. Pineda was in intense pain and was struggling to move. The friend reports that Pineda was not given any pain medication before leaving CG Cosmetic Surgery, but she did receive a prescription for painkillers on her way out of the facility.
Finding no pharmacy open to fill her prescription, Pineda went home.
The next morning, she collapsed at her friend’s home and died at 4:30 p.m. that day.
Although Pineda had liposuction, according to her friend, the only procedure she had planned on having was breast augmentation. In total, Pineda had a tummy tuck, breast-lift, breast augmentation and liposuction of the abdomen and sides.
When contacted after Pineda's death, representatives from CG Cosmetic Surgery did not know about Pineda's death or any other deaths associated with the clinic.
Shortly after, CG Cosmetic Surgery issued a press release stating Pineda's death was not connected to her cosmetic surgery. The clinic is currently under investigation for Pineda's death.
CG Cosmetic Surgery is a new iteration of another clinic, Coral Gables Cosmetic Surgery. Coral Gables is where 18-year-old Linda Pérez underwent a breast augmentation procedure in 2013 that resulted in brain damage and heart failure. Although she survived, she never fully recovered.
When Pérez had her breast augmentation, Coral Gables Cosmetic Surgery was not licensed to perform surgery or cosmetic procedures.
"Using an unlicensed cosmetic surgeon is dangerous," said Dr. Bill Johnson.
Johnson is a licensed Dallas, Texas, cosmetic physician who performs procedures such as liposuction and dermal filler injections.
"Providers who lack licensing may also lack the education and experience needed to perform procedures correctly and safely," Johnson said.
Pineda and Pérez are only two out of dozens of individuals who have experienced complications or death from cosmetic surgery performed at the hands of unlicensed or untrained individuals.
Heather Meadows, 29, is another patient who lost her life to a cosmetic procedure performed in 2016 by an unlicensed doctor at Encore Plastic Surgery in Hialeah, Florida.
Two additional patients died after procedures performed at Encore Plastic Surgery, one in 2014 and another in 2016.
"In many cases, people are lured to these individuals because the procedures they perform are low-cost, or they are performing procedures that are not sanctioned in the United States," Johnson said.
Some individuals even seek cosmetic procedures performed in other countries. A report by researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital-Harvard Medical School in Massachusetts found that many patients seeking surgery overseas come back with more than just souvenirs.
The researchers found that between 2010 and 2017, the hospital treated 78 medical tourists, or individuals who travel to another country for medical care. Many of these individuals had complications including pain, surgical site infections and problems with wounds healing. Twelve of the patients required hospitalization, and many other needed long-term wound care to treat infections or other wound healing issues.
The study also found that many patients had experienced more surgeries than what they consented to, including implants and tummy tucks.
"Other countries may not require the same level of care as the U.S., leaving patients at risk for illness, injury and even death," Johnson said.
ASPS. Plastic Surgery Abroad Can Lead to Severe Complications after Returning to the US. 29 March 2018.
Miami Herald. Mother of two came to Miami for cosmetic surgery. A day later, she died. 14 March 2018.