(NEW YORK) — Illegal plastic surgery made headlines again this week when Morris “Tracey Lynn” Garner was charged with depraved-heart murder in Mississippi after he allegedly injected a woman’s buttocks with so much of a silicone-like substance that she later died of complications, including blood clots in her lungs.
The alleged incident horrifies plastic surgeons, but doesn’t surprise them because, they say, underground and barely legal procedures are on the rise.
“You don’t even have words to speak about what a horrible thing it is when somebody who is trying to improve their appearance and self-confidence only ends up, not only potentially unhappy, but dead,” said Dr. Malcolm Roth, president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons in Arlington Heights, Ill. “We’re hearing more and more about deaths when non-physicians are doing injections, and patients just aren’t informed.”
Roth said he has treated patients who have come to him to correct plastic surgeries gone wrong, and he has seen more and more of them over the years. Since he became president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons a year ago, Roth said he has talked to plastic surgeons from around the world, and they’re seeing the same trend.
The number of illegal surgeries is hard to track because they aren’t reported.
“It’s hard to know because there’s no real reporting mechanism,” Roth said, adding that state laws require physicians to report patient deaths. “But if it’s not a physician, who’s reporting?”
Many times, the patient is looking for a bargain, especially given the economic turmoil of the past three to five years, Roth said. But often the added cost of corrective surgeries exceeds that of the underground surgery. Sometimes, the physical damage is irreversible.
For instance, most legitimate plastic surgeons don’t administer liquid silicone injections at all because it’s impossible to keep the material in one place, he said.
Unlike standard encased breast implants, liquid silicone injections to the breast can go so wrong that the patient will need an invasive mastectomy that goes beyond typical cancer treatment, and includes removing skin on the stomach, neck and back — even muscle tissue — to get rid of the foreign substance. They can never get it all.
Although standard encased implants can leak, they’re often encapsulated in scar tissue, which contains the leak. Food and Drug Administration-approved silicone is also considerably safer than the silicone-like materials underground practitioners use, which has even included flat-tire glue in the past.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Susan Scutti, CNN
Sam Penrod, KSL.com
Kevin Conlon, Euan McKirdy and Johanzynn Gatewood, CNN