Why the Brazilian Butt Lift Is Such a Dangerous Procedure


By: Anthony Youn, MD, FACS, America’s Holistic Plastic Surgeon®

It seems every week I hear another heartbreaking story about a person who died from illegal injections of silicone into the buttocks, typically performed by non-physicians in hotel rooms and homes. For the past several years, I have teamed up with Dr. Oz and his producers to shine a light on this horrifying trend. While those procedures are illegal, there is a legal option to enlarge the buttocks that physicians provide all the time.

Unfortunately, even that may not be a good idea.

According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), fat injections into the buttocks, otherwise known as the Brazilian Butt Lift (BBL) are one of the fastest growing cosmetic surgical procedures in the United States, with over 20,000 performed in 2016. While its popularity is soaring, recent reports reveal a disturbingly high mortality rate from this operation.

So why is BBL so dangerous?

During this operation, the surgeon extracts fat from either the abdomen, hips, or thighs and re-injects it into the buttocks.  Although a seemingly minimally-invasive procedure – it doesn’t necessitate long incisions like a tummy tuck or breast lift-  the fat can be accidentally injected into a blood vessel, resulting in a fat embolus. If the embolus travels to the heart or lungs, it can result in near instant death.

Recently, an Inter-Society Gluteal Fat Grafting Task Force consisting of members of ASAPS and the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) issued a safety advisory urging practitioners to reevaluate their technique after surveys revealed a mortality rate of 1 in 3000 for this procedure. Compared to a death rate of 1 in 50,000 for general cosmetic plastic surgery, BBL has the highest mortality rate for any cosmetic procedure being performed today. In 2017, there were three BBL deaths in the state of Florida alone.

Compounding this unacceptably high mortality rate for BBL is the fact that it is one of the most popular surgeries among young people, especially those who watch and learn about plastic surgery on social media. Every day, doctors perform BBL procedures on Snapchat and Instagram, with millions of young people watching. Celebrities with famously large derrieres also indirectly influence young women to eschew what nature and genetics have given them in the pursuit of an unnaturally ample behind.

So what should you do if you want a larger butt?

  1. Workouts: There are natural ways to enlarge your gluteal muscles. Follow the workout recommendations of a well-educated personal trainer to engage your glutes and you just might be surprised at how much fuller and rounder your buttocks can become!
  2. Non-Invasive Procedures: Reframe your buttocks non-invasively – Reshaping the areas around your buttocks, like the outer thighs, lower back, and hips, can cause your behind to proportionately look fuller and rounder. I’ve found that a majority of my patients are happy with the shape of their buttocks once the areas around it are contoured. And today there are a plethora of proven, non-invasive treatments to reduce these unwanted fat pockets (such as Coolsculpting, TruSculpt, and Sculpsure), making the process safer and easier than ever before.
  3. Research: If you do decide to undergo BBL surgery, then do your homework – The two major plastic surgery societies in the US, ASAPS and ASPS, have been proactive in educating their members on the risks of BBL surgery. In fact, the safety advisory issued by the Inter-Society Gluteal Fat Grafting Task Force lists six procedural suggestions to perform the operation as safely as possible. So, if you decide to undergo this surgery, seek out a member of ASAPS and/or ASPS who follows these recommendations.

Anthony Youn, MD, FACS is a board-certified plastic surgeon, award-winning author, and anti-aging expert. Known as America’s Holistic Plastic Surgeon™, Dr. Youn is considered one of the nation’s best-known experts in looking younger with or without surgery. He is a strong advocate for responsible plastic surgery and recommends using actual surgery as a last resort for patients who want to look and feel younger and better.