Cosmetic Plastic Surgery News

CDC Warns Against Cosmetic Charlatans:
"Liquid Silicone Injections" Linked to Kidney Failure

ATLANTA, May 2008 — The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is warning consumers against undergoing cosmetic surgery by unlicensed providers.

An article in the May 2nd issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report details the cases of three women in North Carolina who developed kidney failure after they received soft-tissue filler injections in their buttocks of what they were told was liquid silicone. The women received the injections from an unlicensed provider at a single facility.

In December 2007, the North Carolina Division of Public Health was notified of the three kidney (renal) failure cases. All of the injections were administered by an unlicensed provider, whose only medical training was as a radiology or x-ray technician. Investigators were not able to definitively identify the substances injected, but records indicated that the injections contained liquid silicone.

Potentially fatal, acute renal failure occurs when the kidneys suddenly stop working, The kidneys are charged with removing waste products and helping to balance water and salt, as well as other minerals known as electrolytes, in the blood. When your kidneys stop working, waste products, fluids and electrolytes build up, causing potentially fatal problems.

According to records, the women all had large volumes of silicone oil and saline injected in their buttocks. Renal failure has not previously been linked to silicone injections, but since the contents of the syringes were not verified, it is unknown whether silicone oil or another substance in the injections caused the problem. All three women recovered. The practitioner was arrested and charged with practicing medicine without a license.

"These findings underscore the risks posed by cosmetic injections administered by unlicensed practitioners," the researchers write.

The bottom line is that soft-tissue filler injections should be administered only by licensed providers with appropriate medical training, the CDC warns.

Think it can't happen to you? Think again. Any person can claim to be a plastic surgeon. Safeguard yourself by doing the right research and asking the right questions before you choose a plastic surgeon or procedure.

Protect yourself from cosmetic charlatans by:

  • Carefully checking credentials. Information about a surgeon's education, licensure, board certification and disciplinary action is available from many sources, including your state medical board. The Federation of State Medical Boards in Euless, Texas at (817) 868-4000 provides the contact information for your state's board.
  • Choosing a board-certified plastic surgeon or dermatologist. A doctor's board certification is the best indicator of his or her training in a specialty. [Read our article about requirements for plastic surgery board certification.]
  • Checking facility accreditation. Cosmetic surgery can be performed safely in a hospital, a surgicenter or an office-based surgical facility. That said, many office-based surgical facilities are not accredited. Make sure the one you choose is, by checking with the American Association for Accreditation of Ambulatory Surgery Facilities at (847) 949-6058.
  • Checking hospital privileges. Hospital review committees evaluate a surgeon's training and competency for specific procedures before granting them permission to practice at that hospital.

CDC, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, May 2, 2008; vol 57: pp 453-456.
American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery website. "Credentials: How to Check"