Despite the media attention garnered in recent years by several horrifying cases of amputation, disfigurement, and death, the illegal butt injection business continues to thrive in many American cities.
Vinnie Taylor, a North Carolina man accused of performing butt injections using industrial-grade silicone, was recently sentenced to 15 years in federal prison after one of his clients died of “acute and chronic respiratory failure due to a foreign substance in her body.”
Taylor met clients in hotel rooms throughout the East Coast, using gallons of silicon, super glue and plastic wrap to perform DIY butt augmentation procedures. His successful backdoor business generated $1.6 million in revenue from 3,000 sessions performed over a 7-year period.
In 2015, 44-year-old Nitica Deonte Lee performed an illegal butt injection on 22-year old exotic dancer Daysha Phillips in a Dallas, Texas hotel room. Phillips, who had undergone the procedure before, paid between $300-500 per session. She died four days after her last encounter with Lee of a silicone pulmonary embolism.
Oneal Ron Morris, the Floridian ‘toxic tush doctor’ accused of preying on fellow members of the transgender community and injecting cement, Fix-a-Flat, mineral oil, and superglue into patients, was arrested last year and charged with manslaughter for performing the injections that caused the death of a woman from acute and chronic respiratory failure.
Another of Morris’ alleged victims, 48 year-old Rajee Narinesingh, from Miami, Florida, appeared on Dr. Terry Dubrow and Dr. Paul Nassif‘s TV show Botched last year. The celebrity doctors removed multiple cement nodules from her face.
The Painful Road to Recovery
These back-alley “doctors” or “nurses” host private appointments or “pump parties”, during which groups of friends or family members gather at a house, salon or spa for discounted prices.
Southern Florida is considered the ground zero of unlicensed butt enhancement procedures. “Unfortunately, I see four to six consultations to remove illegal substances in the buttocks every month. Most cases involve women between 20 and 50 years old,” says Miami plastic surgeon Dr. Daniel Careaga. “I can only help about half of them.”
Houston plastic surgeon Dr. Cain Linville has also seen several cases of patients suffering the consequences of these procedures. Many are performed by practitioners with dubious credentials across the border in Mexico. “Instruments aren’t properly sterilized, causing a million infections,” states Dr. Linville. “People put their lives at risk to save money, then have complications, come back to the United States to get treated, rack up medical bills that are astronomical, and risk permanent disfigurement.”
Dr. Linville treated a patient in 2014 who was admitted to ICU with a life-threatening mycobacterial infection. The patient spent a month in the hospital and required several surgeries, leaving permanent scars on her buttocks.
Using low grade, non-approved silicone has negative, long term effects for those who live to tell their tale. “Medical grade silicone has been approved by the FDA and has a high molecular weight designed to be implanted into the body. The use of industrial grade silicone and the chronic, low level inflammation that ensues can cause the skin to darken and get hard over time,” explains Dr. Careaga.
To make matters worse, silicone isn’t the only substance that’s misused. There have also been several very high profile cases which involved the use of concrete “fix-a-flat”. These substances do not merge with a patient’s skin tissue, causing them to migrate to other areas.
“Patients who have had these injections come to me complaining that they have silicone in their ankles and it’s hurting,” says Careaga. “If any of these injections go too deep into the large gluteal blood vessels, the substance can reach the lungs. Death is almost guaranteed.”
If any of these injections go too deep into the large gluteal blood vessels, the substance can reach the lungs. Death is almost guaranteed.
Dr. Daniel Careaga
New York City plastic surgeon Dr. Joshua Zuckerman tells the story of a patient who received emergency treatment after having being injected with one liter of “HydroGel”, as she termed it, in each buttock. After treating the woman, Dr. Zuckerman determined that the product was most probably some type of silicone bathroom caulk.
The patient explained that “she was injected by someone in Miami who claimed to be a nurse, and performed the procedure in their home,” says Dr. Zuckerman. “When she came to the ER, she had a high fever and was draining puss on both buttocks, which were red, swollen, painful and infected. We took her to the operating room and because the external substance was so integrated into the tissue within and around the fat cells, we had to make multiple large incisions. Afterwards, her buttocks looked like she had been attacked by a bear.”
The infection was combated by full removal of the external substance. “We left the incisions opened and packed them with gauze,” explains Dr. Zuckerman. The woman was on IV antibiotics for a week with daily dressing changes before leaving against medical advice. She was later invited onto Tyra Banks’ talk show to tell her story.
Fixing a botched butt injection procedure is a complex, costly process. “First, an MRI must be done to view if the product spread out to the entire gluteus or if it is localized,” explains Dr. Careaga. “There are several options available depending on the severity of the case. However, the gold standard is liposuction using Lysonix or Vaser devices, which fragment tissue into small droplets that can then be extracted. No one way can ever remove 100% of the product, but the goal is to get most of it out to lessen the chance of future complications.”
More severe cases must be treated with large surgical incisions, causing severe, permanent disfigurement of the gluteus.
Worth the Price: Legitimate Butt Enhancement Procedures
The only safe procedures for buttocks enhancements are FDA-approved products administered by board certified physicians in a sterile, medical setting. Each client has various health, age, and physical risk factors to take into account during initial consultations. The main options offered by legitimate practitioners are silicone gluteal implants, which are specifically designed for butt augmentation, and fat grafting techniques such as the Brazilian butt lift.
Dr. Linville offers his patients the Brazilian butt lift as a safe method for achieving the sculpted figure they dream of. The patient’s own fat cells are harvest and processed via liposuction, and then injected into the buttock tissue to increase volume.
“Provided that standard liposuction principles are used, that portion is very safe,” explains Dr. Linville. “The current safety measures for injecting fats are similar to any other type of injection. I do not inject fat cells directly into any arteries or veins, nor into the very deep tissue where those vessels lie. If or when I do inject into muscle, which is also commonly done, I aspirate first to make sure my cannula is not in the vessel. Also, overfilling of the buttock can theoretically force fat cells into small holes in blood vessels, so while I do ‘fill it up’, I don’t fill to the point where it is rock hard. Too much pressure causes fat cells to die anyways.”
The typical cost Dr. Linville charges for this procedure is $5,000. In other practices, prices range from $2,000 to $14,000.
“No injectable filler is safe enough to be used in the quantities needed for buttock augmentation,” says Dr. Zuckerman. “If you were to use Juvederm lip filler, it would take a hundred tubes and cost $90,000 per buttock! There’s just no way.”
Clearly, patients who fall for offers that are too good to be true will inevitably end up suffering the consequences. Dealing with a board certified plastic surgeon who has specific knowledge of the procedure is the only way to ensure that things will go as planned.