If you’ve ever considered enhancing your buttocks, you may have heard warnings about the safety of the Brazilian butt lift (BBL), a surgical operation that can add natural-looking shape to the buttocks via a fat transfer procedure. While qualified plastic surgeons have been safely performing butt lifts for a number of years, unscrupulous doctors were also attempting to capitalize on the procedure’s rising popularity and their inexperience tragically led to a number of patient deaths. For this reason, the Aesthetic Surgery Education and Research Foundation (ASERF) organized a task force in 2015 to study the problem and inform all surgeons of the risks—and how to avoid them.
We are pleased to share promising findings from a new follow-up study published in The Aesthetic Surgery Journal. Thanks to this education campaign, many more surgeons have educated themselves and are taking the correct safety precautions if they offer BBL procedures.
Summary of BBL safety follow-up study
In 2017, the ASERF task force published specific risk-reduction recommendations for surgeons, and in 2019, the group followed up to see if their campaign had a positive effect on outcomes. They published their findings in April 2020, noting the following progress:
- The incidence of pulmonary fat embolism (PFE), a primary risk of the procedure, was found to be 1 in 2492, an improvement over the 1 in 1030 reported in 2017.
- Mortality rate has greatly decreased, from 1 in 3448 in 2017 to 1 in 14,952 in 2019.
- Ninety-four percent of surgeons responding to the survey were aware of the new safety recommendations.
- Only 0.8% of surgeons in the current survey reported that they still risked injecting deeply, compared with 13.1% in 2017.
- Only 4% of respondents reported angling the cannula down in the current survey, another practice considered to be higher risk, compared with 27.2% in 2017.
These are all clear wins in terms of patient safety—but it doesn’t mean that you can assume any surgeon who offers Brazilian butt lifts can safely give you the results you desire. It’s still absolutely critical to educate yourself and carefully screen your surgeon. To help you make the best possible decision, let’s get into more detail on how the procedure works, the risks posed by an unqualified provider, and how to find a surgeon who can provide you with a safe, effective, and attractive Brazilian butt lift.
How a Brazilian butt lift works
To understand the safety issues that the Brazilian butt lift can present, you must first know the basics of how the procedure works. A Brazilian butt lift is a fat transfer to the buttocks, which takes place in a few steps.
Fat is reinjected into the buttocks to create the unique shape that you want. This may sound fairly straightforward, but how the fat is administered can make all the difference when it comes to safety.
First, liposuction is used in the abdomen, back, hips, or thighs (sometimes called a “donor site”) to remove unwanted fat. At this step, your surgeon is using a very safe and proven procedure with a long track record. Still, a high level of skill is required as they are not simply harvesting fat for the sake of augmenting your buttocks: your surgeon should use the liposuction step to visibly enhance your shape. Their choices on how and where to subtract fat will play a part in emphasizing your new gluteal curves.
After liposuction, your fat is purified in a centrifuge which separates the excess fluid from the fat and purifies it for transplantation. The prepared fat is then reinjected into the buttocks to create the unique shape that you want. This may sound fairly straightforward, but how the fat is administered can make all the difference when it comes to safety. Your surgeon needs to understand how to use a cannula at the right angle and at the correct depth for fat transplantation, in addition to having an eye for aesthetics.
Past safety issues with the Brazilian butt lift
The primary safety issue with the Brazilian butt lift stemmed from surgeons who injected fat into or below the gluteal muscle, rather than into the subcutaneous fat layer. When fat is injected into the muscle, it has a higher probability of entering the bloodstream—a very dangerous possibility that can lead to pulmonary fat embolism (PFE), or a fat blockage in the bloodstream. This is the primary reason why complication rates from BBL procedures were found to be alarmingly high: surgeons were injecting the fat too deeply.
How to get a safe Brazilian butt lift
The task force report found that 94% of plastic surgeons are now aware of these safety issues. Those who are performing safe Brazilian butt lifts are much more likely to be following these steps to ensure patient safety:
- Injecting the fat into the “subcutaneous plane,” or the fat layer just below the skin (and no deeper)
- Injecting with a blunt-tip cannula at least 4 mm thick
- Angling the cannula either parallel to the spine or upwards in order to avoid injecting downward into the muscle
While we’ve noted that most surgeons are now aware of these rules, not every surgeon is. When consulting with a plastic surgeon, in addition to viewing their board certification, experience, and results, confirm that they are fully aware of the ASERF task force’s Brazilian butt lift recommendations.
At Basu Aesthetics + Plastic Surgery, we prioritize patient safety at every turn. Our board certified plastic surgeons stay on top of advancements in the field (and even play a part in educating their fellow surgeons). We only operate in fully accredited facilities with hospital-level life safety equipment and other measures in place. And, when you visit us for a consultation, we will be transparent about procedure risks, providing you with in-depth procedure information. We believe you are entitled to transparent, safe, and effective care!
Board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Bob Basu appeared on Fox News to discuss BBL safety in this interview:
Your prospective provider should not only reassure you of their safe methods—they should demonstrate that they can get aesthetically sound results, as well. Ask to look at your surgeon’s before and after photos taken of previous BBL patients in order to see what the surgeon can do, and to help you get on the same page about the aesthetic result you hope for. A skilled surgeon with an eye for aesthetics can use the combined effect of the liposuction and fat injection to create a striking new lower-body contour for you. (Our gallery of before and after photos shows just how effective and customizable this procedure can be.)
In the Houston area? Schedule a consultation with Dr. Basu
Board certified plastic surgeon Dr. C. Bob Basu is a renowned surgeon with a history of providing attractive, natural body contouring results. Learn more or schedule a consultation by contacting us online or calling Basu Aesthetics + Plastic Surgery at (713) 799-2278.