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Another Liposuction death? Chinese Embassy issues advisory after Chinese National dies from liposuction. What you need to know before going for Liposuction surgery overseas

Another Liposuction death? Chinese Embassy issues advisory after Chinese National dies from liposuction. What you need to know before going for Liposuction surgery overseas

Straits Times (20 Jan 2024)

SEOUL – China’s embassy in Seoul has warned Chinese citizens against the dangers of having plastic surgery done in South Korea, from the risk of death to major facial changes that make it difficult to pass through immigration checks.

“In recent years, many foreigners have come to South Korea for cosmetic surgery, and some people have been involved in medical disputes and surgical failures, and even deaths have occurred,” the embassy said in a note to the public.

The note follows the death in January of a Chinese woman after she received liposuction surgery three times at a plastic surgery clinic in the Gangnam area of the capital, the Yonhap news agency said on Jan 17, citing police.

China’s embassy asked its citizens to be wary of advertising and take note of the risks. It also said they should choose their intermediaries carefully, check the legitimacy of medical institutions or surgeons, sign clear contracts, and retain full records [1].

(Abstract from The Straits Times, “Chinese embassy warns of plastic surgery risks in South Korea”, Jan 20, 2024)

What is liposuction?

Liposuction is a surgical body contouring procedure that removes excess fat via a cannula attached to a vacuum. Unwanted fat deposits are surgically removed to contour the hips, outer thighs, upper arms, abdomen, flanks, back, and double chin.

Data from the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery shows that liposuction is the world’s most popular plastic surgery procedure, with over 1.9 million procedures performed in 2021 [2].

What are the risks of liposuction?

Performed by a well-trained medical professional in an appropriate setting (e.g. Hospital Operating Room), liposuction surgery is generally safe.

However, liposuction is considered a major surgery and, as such, carries some risks – both minor and major. The risks of liposuction include contour irregularities, asymmetry, dimpling, haematoma (bruising), prolonged pain or numbness, skin laxity, airway compromise, adverse reaction to anaesthesia, skin burns, scarring, systemic infection, and death. The reported mortality rate for liposuction was 1 death out of 5,000 cases (USA data, self-reported by US plastic surgeons) [3].

liposuction risks
Liposuction is a major surgery that carries some risks, such as bruising, skin laxity, collapsed airways, and even death.

Liposuction deaths in the media

While details remain scarce about the circumstances surrounding the Jan 2024 liposuction death case in Korea, two high-profile liposuction-related deaths occurred over a decade ago in Singapore.

The first case [4], 44-year-old Franklin Heng Ang Tee, was undergoing a liposuction procedure at Reves Clinic on Dec 30, 2009, where he received an overdose of intravenous sedation and asphyxiated due to airway compromise. In addition, the patient’s stomach and intestines had been punctured multiple times during the liposuction procedure due to poor technique. Mr Heng collapsed after the procedure and was pronounced dead the same day.

In the second case [5], 44-year-old Mandy Yeong underwent liposuction by Dr Edward Foo on 28 June 2013 at the TCS at Central Clinic to remove fat from her abdominal flanks, followed by a fat transfer to smooth the unevenness in her thighs. After a two-hour operation, she developed pulmonary fat embolism (blood flow to the lungs blocked by fat particles) and was taken to SGH A&E, where she died 2 hours later. 

How to get liposuction safely?

Contrary to popular belief, liposuction is considered safe. But this is only true if you adhere to the following: 

  1. Choose an experienced and well-trained doctor: Liposuction in Singapore is currently well-regulated, and only accredited doctors (Plastic Surgeons or doctors with advanced liposuction training) are allowed to perform liposuction.
  2. Choose an appropriate facility: Choose a hospital surgical facility with a trained Anaesthesiologist and resuscitation facilities that are immediately available if necessary. You may have to be admitted to the hospital for overnight monitoring.

Other things to note: Life Insurance may not cover death from liposuction, which is considered elective cosmetic surgery! Your next of kin will have to sue the provider for damages and loss of inheritance, which takes years.

The rise of non-surgical body contouring

Technological advancements have fuelled the popularity of non-surgical body contouring treatments. These procedures are safe, usually conducted in a clinic, and have no downtime. Non-surgical body contouring, such as SculpSure, can help eliminate excess body fat without the risks associated with surgery. 

Data released by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) show that 17.5 million surgical and minimally invasive cosmetic procedures were performed in the U.S. in 2017, with body shaping and minimally invasive procedures seeing a drastic increase in popularity [6]. The two most popular non-surgical methods for fat reduction are Cryolipolysis (Fat freezing) and Laser Lipolysis

What is Cryolipolysis (fat freezing)?

Cryolipolysis uses cold temperatures to remove unwanted fat cells. It has been FDA-approved since 2010; this fat reduction procedure freezes and destroys fat cells without harming the surrounding tissues, so it carries a low risk of serious side effects and comes with no downtime. Over several weeks following the treatment, the body naturally metabolises and permanently eliminates the fat cells.

The Ministry of Health (Singapore) does not regulate fat-freezing (cryolipolysis) treatments in Singapore, but beauty salons, spas, and home-based beauticians can offer this treatment. This treatment does not need to be performed or supervised by a medical doctor. 

cryolipolysis singapore
Fat-freezing uses cold temperatures to remove unwanted fat cells.

What are the disadvantages of cryolipolysis?

As promising and enticing as cryolipolysis sounds, it has some negatives associated with it, such as some minor side effects like pain and aching post-procedure. However, one of the major side effects of cryolipolysis is paradoxical adipose hyperplasia [7].

Imagine paying money for a fat freeze procedure to remove excess fat accumulation, only to have the fat regrow bigger and harder after a few months. And the only solution is to undergo an expensive and painful liposuction surgery.

As the name suggests, paradoxical adipose hyperplasia (PAH) is a rare complication from fat freezing, where the fat tissue regrows larger, causing a deformity [7]. Unfortunately, this complication developed for US-based supermodel Linda Evangelista, who needed to go for corrective liposuction surgery and sank into depression. She subsequently filed a lawsuit against CoolSculpt (a leading US FDA-approved cryolipolysis device) for USD 50 Million in damages and settled for an undisclosed sum. 

What is Laser Lipolysis?

Non-surgical laser lipolysis [8] is regulated by the Ministry of Health (Singapore) and can only be performed in medical clinics by accredited medical professionals.  The medical-grade lasers used for Laser Lipolysis are considered Medical Devices and undergo a stringent licencing process. 

SculpSure Laser Lipolysis

SculpSure Laser lipolysis is a non-surgical, non-invasive body contouring treatment that uses diode-laser energy to destroy stubborn fat cells permanently. SculpSure (CynoSure, USA) is US FDA-cleared to reduce unwanted fat on the abdomen (tummy), flanks (love handles), back, thighs, buttocks, and double chin. The SculpSure Laser cools the skin’s surface, while its laser energy heats the underlying fat cells until they are too damaged to survive. Over the next 1-2 months, the body flushes them out through the lymphatic system. One SculpSure treatment can destroy up to 25% of fat cells in the target area [9]. There is no downtime, and individuals can resume normal activity right away.

sculpsure singapore
SculpSure uses laser lipolysis for body contouring.

BaySculpt 

Baysculpt electromagnetic muscle stimulation is a non-invasive, no-downtime body contouring treatment used to build up the muscles of the abdomen, buttocks, inner thighs, and arms while burning fat. It also effectively treats abdominal muscle separation (diastasis recti) after childbirth. 

A 30-minute session generates 20,000 supramaximal muscle contractions- the equivalent of meticulously performing 20,000 crunches! A series of Baysculpt treatments result in improved muscle tone and bulk with fewer fatty deposits. Treatment areas include the abdomen, buttocks, arms and inner thighs.

Body Contouring at Bay Aesthetics Clinic

Bay Aesthetic Clinic’s 8-week body transformation is a doctor-supervised, MOH-accredited programme that utilises US FDA-approved technology (SculpSure, BaySculpt) for non-surgical body contouring. Female clients are typically assigned to a lady doctor (Medical Director Dr Hoe Ying Min) for privacy and comfort. 

The clinic is open daily and is conveniently located near to 2 major MRT stations (Downtown, Raffles Place), ideal for working professionals in the CBD. A holistic approach to health and wellness is adopted, which incorporates health screening for metabolic conditions and a medically supervised weight management programme. Surgical options for body contouring are available and are performed by our trusted partner Plastic Surgeon.

A customised treatment protocol is recommended after a detailed consultation, physical examination, and systemic review. The team performs careful patient selection to maximise success and good outcomes – individuals deemed unsuitable or likely to get a poor outcome will not be onboarded (e.g. obese individuals with BMI >30 who will benefit more from a weight management programme).

If you have been considering body contouring treatments, we would love to work with you to help you achieve your goals. To learn more, schedule an appointment with our doctor today!

References

  1. The Straits Times. (20 January, 2024). Chinese embassy warns of plastic surgery risks in South Korea. Singapore.
  2. International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. (2021). ISAPS International Survey on Aesthetic/Cosmetic Procedures Performed in 2021. ISAPS.
  3. Frederick M. Grazer, R. H. (2000). Fatal Outcomes from Liposuction: Census Survey of Cosmetic Surgeons. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, doi: 10.1097/00006534-200001000-00070.
  4. Chia, O. (8 March, 2022). Former aesthetics doctor pleads guilty to causing liposuction patient’s death in 2009. The Straits Times.
  5. Khalik, S. (21 January, 2016). 44-year-old mum second patient in 4 years to die after liposuction. The Straits Times.
  6. American Society of Plastic Surgeons. (2017). 2017 Plastic Surgery Statistics Report. ASPS Plastic Relations.
  7. Selina M Singh, E. R. (2015). Paradoxical adipose hyperplasia secondary to cryolipolysis: An underreported entity? Lasers in Surgery and Medicine, doi: 10.1002/lsm.22380.
  8. Rebekah Kuschmider, Z. S. (20 September, 2023). What Is Laser Lipolysis? Retrieved from WebMD: https://www.webmd.com/beauty/laser-lipolysis
  9. SculpSure. (n.d.). Heat Treat Your Stubborn Fat. Retrieved from SculpSure: https://www.sculpsure.com/#:~:text=SculpSure%20body%20contouring%20is%20a,treated%20fat%20cells%20without%20surgery.
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