NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The federal government and local surgeons are warning potential patients about the increasing problem with people seeking out illegal silicone injections and medical tourism.
"It's a dangerous thing, and I think people are playing roulette with their lives and the lives of the people they are injecting," New Orleans Cosmetic Surgeon Marilynn Pelias said.
Pelias said this year multiple botched and illegal silicone injections completed by others in her industry have led unsatisfied patients to seek corrective surgery at her office.
"I've heard of people going to a silicone party or have a silicone sister inject them, and they'll go as a group to someone's home and have an unlicensed practitioner inject the drug," she said.
Pelias said the patients she has corrected understood that the dangers involved included stroke, embolism and death, but they told her they went through with the procedure to save money.
Last month, the Federal Drug Administration issued a warning against illegal silicone injections.
"Consumers need to be aware that injectable silicone used for body contouring is not FDA-approved and can cause serious side effects that may be permanent or may even lead to death," a release by the agency stated.
The agency said injectable silicone is different from the silicone contained in breast implants because an implant shell keeps the silicone from moving inside someone's body.
"It can migrate closer to the surface and cause abnormal texture, big bubbles of silicone can show up under the skin or it can cause the body to react to it and form hard lumps and nodules to where someone looks really deformed," Pelias said.
The medical industry is ringing the alarm, especially after a Louisiana woman died last week while she was undergoing a butt lift procedure in Florida. The coroner reported the woman died on the operating table when an embolism occurred due to liposuction and fat transfer.
"We are not talking about people who are not licensed doing it in the back of a van," LSU Health Plastic Surgeon Oren Tessler said.
Dr. Tessler takes his warning even further for all cosmetic procedures - not just injections. He cautions people against what is called medical tourism. That is when patients go to out-of-state or out-of-the country facilities in an attempt to save money.
"Let's say you engage in medical tourism and there's a problem. The final cost is going to be far greater than someone who is originally board-certified," Tessler said.
Tessler said finding a board-certified plastic surgeon is the best way patients can protect themselves. Those certifications are verified by several organizations including the American Board of Plastic Surgeons, the American Board of Facial Plastic Surgeons and the American Board of Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.
"That, to me, when you have those kind of certifications, would give me more confidence that the person is well-trained and that a lot of the approaches and nuances to the surgery will be within the standard of care," Dr. Tessler said.