Social Media And The Danger of Unsafe Brazilian Butt Surgery

First published on December 31, 2020. Updated on August 26, 2022 for accuracy and completeness).

The tragic death of influencer Joselyn Cano and what makes Brazilian Butt Lift surgery so dangerous.

I heard last week about the tragic death of Joselyn Cano, a social media celebrity, who suffered complications from plastic surgery. Although the details still haven’t fully been confirmed appeared that she had had a BBL or Brazilian Butt lift in Colombia. She was only 30 years old and a mom of 2. I am devastated by someone dying from plastic surgery – and my heart breaks for her and her family.

As a plastic surgeon and also someone who is well aware of what is presented on social media – I am always concerned and mindful of how social media can influence people to feel like they need more, force comparisons with images that are often unrealistic, and also desensitize people to plastic surgery procedures. Plastic surgery is real surgery and safety and thoughtful consideration of every procedure are of utmost importance.

When it comes to Brazilian Butt Lift even more caution and consideration must be applied when performing this surgery. It has the highest mortality rate of any plastic surgery – 1 in 3000. Besides death – there are complications like infection, fat cysts, fat necrosis, and permanent disfigurement. The most common cause of death is fat embolism. There are large vessels in and under the butt muscle and if the fat is injected in or near them especially under high pressure, the fat can be sucked up into them – and embolism to the lungs and brain causing death. The technique is critical in this surgery to prevent fat embolism and other complications. Placing too much fat or doing it in a way that isn’t gentle can result in fat necrosis (the fat dies) fat cysts (the fat cells break apart and make oil cysts) which can cause infection or hard lumps of the scar. Why would anyone inject in the muscle or fill the butt with so much fat – usually to get extreme volume.

The safest way to avoid this fatal complication is to place the fat gently in the fat layer over the muscles and take extreme care not to accidentally go too deep. It is also important not to be over aggressive and place too much fat in the butt and hips that may die or be put under too much pressure in order to avoid other complications. I believe it is extremely important to perform all steps of this surgery carefully, precisely, and meticulously to produce smooth and natural-looking results from the donor liposuctioned sites, help ensure maximal fat survival and avoid dangerous complications. Post-op care is also extremely important and is something I take the time to explain and review with my patients. For those of you who want to know more, I have these instructional videos available on my YouTube Channel.

There was a term that I came across called Snapchat dysmorphia. Where over photoshopped bodies or filters on social media were distorting people’s body image ideals. I have often encountered this where patients have shown me images of what they want to look like and the photos are obviously photoshopped showing exaggerated narrow waists, extremely large butts, or breasts that look completely different from their anatomy, or overly smoothed skin. As a surgeon, it’s important for me to help patients understand that those are just altered images. There is a limit to how much fat can be harvested safely and how much fat can be injected safely.