Woman in Coma Following Plastic Surgery Procedure with Unlicensed Practitioner

It’s safe to say that in the United States, people have a fascination with plastic surgery mishaps, as evidenced by the popularity of TV shows like the E! Network’s Botched. But while most cases on Botched can be fixed, and with beautiful results, not all bungled surgeries have such happy endings. Such is the case of a woman in Nanning, Guangxi, China.

The trouble started when the 28-year-old woman underwent a procedure to eliminate facial wrinkles. The practitioner was to use fat from the patient’s thigh and inject it into the skin around her temples. But things took a dangerous turn when instead of injecting the fat into her skin, the practitioner accidentally injected an artery that led directly to the patient’s brain, sending her into an immediate coma.

The patient was rushed to a nearby hospital, where she underwent four emergency surgeries to remove the fat from her artery. Some of the damage was irreversible, leaving the left side of the patient’s body paralyzed.

Plastic surgeon Bruce Chau of Berkley, Michigan, says cases like this are exactly why you should make sure you are dealing with a board-certified plastic surgeon prior to undergoing even a simple procedure — something the woman in this case did not do.

“Even here in the United States, patients have become seriously injured and even killed following procedures conducted by untrained and unlicensed practitioners,” says Chau. “It’s not just about injecting a filler into someone’s body. You need to know which fillers are safe to inject and where it is safe to inject them.”

Chau says this case is yet another example of why patients should also avoid taking “plastic surgery vacations” to foreign destinations.

“If you don’t speak the language or aren’t familiar with local certifications, it can be difficult to know who you’re hiring,” says Chau. “In this case, the patient was local but either did not or could not verify that her practitioner was legal. If it’s that difficult for locals to check, imagine how hard it would be for someone foreign.”

Chau recommends patients either ask to see certifications or research practitioners prior to their appointment by checking online databases such as the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs or the American Medical Association. Patients can also check with their specialist to see their individual board certifications.

“Board certification is not a requirement,” explains Chau. “But it’s an added level of protection for both the patient and the doctor, and it can go a long way toward preventing tragedies like the one in Guangxi from happening here in the United States.”