Consumer Alert: Illegal Silicone Injections Result in Death

Coalition warns illicit injections are not "plastic surgery"

April 13, 2009 - Accept an illicit injection and the result may not be an improved appearance, but rather death, warns the Physicians Coalition for Injectable Safety. The recent death of a Bronx, NY woman who had silicone injections to improve the shape and appearance of her thighs and buttocks is an unfortunate and repeating pattern of incidents that show the very serious dangers of illegal injections.

"This particular incident occurred in a Latino community, but these illegal and dangerous practices cross cultural and economic lines," said Coalition leader Renato Saltz, MD of Salt Lake City, UT, and President-Elect of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. "An untrained individual performing injections of unknown or non-FDA approved substances to purportedly improve appearance is a criminal act that has proved to result in complications ranging from a permanently disfigured appearance to death." Additional recent headlines surrounding illicit injections have included a pump-party bust in Miami, deaths resulting from illegal injections in Atlanta and Sacramento and disfigurement from these practices in Beverly Hills.

"The consequences of an illegal injection are far more serious than other illicit consumer buys, such as a fake designer handbag," said Laurie Casas, MD, a suburban Chicago, IL plastic surgeon and President-Elect of the Aesthetic Surgery Research and Education Foundation. "Both are illegal, but the injection carries with it serious complications that may not be correctable. If you suffer a complication there may be no way to remove the substance or to repair the damage, and as reported, the damage from these injections can result in death. There is simply no reason to take chances with you face, your body or your life."

More than 4 million reported1 , legal cosmetic injections are administered annually by licensed, properly trained and board-certified specialists in the fields of plastic surgery, facial plastic surgery, oculoplastic surgery and dermatology. "A woman's desire to want to improve her appearance is something she can safely address with cosmetic injections, performed in a medical setting by a properly trained and certified specialist" said Dr. Casas. "Clearly, the popularity of legal injections is growing, as they have a proven track record of safety and patient satisfaction." , A New England Journal of Medicine article in January, 2006 suggested the risks of silicone pneumonitis and respiratory failure in patients injected with illicit silicone and cautioned that "silicone injections for cosmetic purposes should be considered a high-risk procedure." 2

"The message here is strong and clear; you must not accept an injection offered in a non-medical setting such as someone's home, a salon, bodega ,bar by a self-proclaimed provider. You must seek out a qualified doctor," said Dr. Saltz. "You must ask this doctor specifically the name of the brand of injection that is recommended for you and the FDA approval in the US of this brand. For your beauty and your safety, and clearly in this case, your life, you must accept nothing less than a qualified doctor and an approved brand." There is no such thing as generic injectables, nor should you accept an injection by a generic name, ask specifically for the brand name.

The Coalition offers consumers extensive, easy to use resources including a cosmetic injection planner with all the questions you must ask your provider at http://www.injectablesafety.org. In addition, an up-to-date listing of the status of investigational and approved cosmetic injection drugs and devices is available on the site, as well as pictures that will help consumers identify a genuine brand. In addition consumers are urged to ask and consider these simple questions before considering any cosmetic injectable procedure:

  • Doctor: Is the injectable recommended by a qualified doctor who regularly treats similar conditions, in an appropriately licensed and equipped medical facility? Has the doctor examined the prospective patient before recommending treatment?
  • Brand: Is the injectable recommended approved by the U.S. FDA,, and by equivalent agencies in the country of origin, for cosmetic indications and is it appropriately labeled and packaged to reflect its authenticity and approval?
  • Safety: Is the setting a proper medically-equipped office, with safety and sterilization procedures? Has the physician evaluated conditions, recommended treatment, offered alternatives and clearly defined the potential outcomes including any complications?

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1 Cosmetic Surgery National Data Bank, 2008 Statistics
2 New England Journal of Medicine, 354;2, January 12, 2006.

About Us
The Physicians Coalition for Injectable Safety is an alliance of specialty physician organizations including the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the International Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery and the Canadian Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. The mission of the Coalition is to provide the public with unbiased and necessary information on injectable cosmetic treatments, appropriate injectors and where to safely access cosmetic medical procedures. Our goal is to promote treatment supervised by properly qualified and trained, board-certified doctors and to promote only the use of U.S. FDA-approved, appropriately administered product. More information can be found at http://www.injectablesafety.org.

Manager of Media Relations Adeena Babbit

Contact email: media@surgery.org
tel: 212.921.0500
fax: 212.921.0011

Please Credit the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.