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Why Having BBL Abroad Might Be a Bad Idea

Tagged: Body & Breast

Date: 14th February 2024

Medically Reviewed by:  Mr. Bryan Mayou (GMC: 1414396)

Last reviewed: 14th February 2024

What is Medical Tourism?

Medical tourism has increased in popularity over the last few years. It refers to people travelling abroad for various medical treatments but has become especially associated with surgical cosmetic procedures. People travel abroad to seek medical services for a number of reasons including:

  • Price – Many countries offer medical procedures for a much lower price than the UK. This can be a huge draw for patients who are looking for a procedure that they may not be able to afford normally, but there is a strong argument that there are often reasons for why the price is so low. 
  • Combining treatment and travel – Some patients want to combine their procedure with a holiday, being able to recover in a location they may otherwise never have travelled to. 
  • Access to specific treatments – There are some treatments, procedures and technologies that are only available in certain countries such as the USA. Patients who wish to undergo these procedures or treatments before they become available internationally, may consider travelling. 

Why Do People Have BBLs Overseas?

BBL (Brazilian Butt Lift) also known as Fat Transfer to Buttocks is a surgical procedure which involves fat being removed from areas of the body using Liposuction, before being processed and injected to increase the volume and lift of the buttocks and hips.

BBL is often a procedure with a high price tag in the UK, and this can make people look at alternative locations to consider having it carried out. As the surgery’s result of a small (snatched) waist with large, lifted buttocks has become very popular, and has been driven by celebrities, more people are interested in undergoing this surgery. Clinics abroad often claim they are able to provide the same results, but with a much lower price tag. However, there are risks associated with having surgical treatments outside of the UK. 

Why is Turkey a Popular Destination for BBL Surgery?

Turkey has become a popular destination for many medical procedures, but especially cosmetic surgery. In 2022, around 150,000 people travelled from Britain to have medical procedures in Turkey. Over 12,000 BBLs are performed across Turkey each year. There are several reasons why people are drawn to going there for BBL surgery:

  • Price – As we have already spoken about, surgery outside of the UK is usually cheaper. However, these prices are often even lower in Turkey – usually 50-70% less than in the UK. 
  • Government support – The Turkish government has actively promoted medical tourism to Turkey and has encouraged foreigners to travel there to have surgery. 
  • High quality medical facilities – Many of Turkey’s hospitals and medical facilities are equipped with state-of-the-art technology to perform cosmetic surgery to a very high standard.

Although all of these reasons may sound very appealing, there are huge risks when choosing to have cosmetic surgery outside of the UK. 

Can it be Dangerous to Have BBL Surgery in Turkey?

Many of the reasons people choose to have cosmetic surgery in Turkey may sound very encouraging and reassuring, but it is important to remember that BBL carries the highest level of risk of any cosmetic surgical procedure, with over 1 death for every 4000 procedures. If it is undertaken without the correct qualifications or in a dangerous environment, the complications can sadly, be fatal.

The main complication associated with BBL surgery is fat embolism. This occurs when the fat is injected too deep into the buttock tissue. This then travels to the lungs or other organs, causing a blockage leading to death.

In the UK, The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) has issued guidelines recommending that surgeons only carry out Superficial Gluteal Filling, where the fat is injected under the skin, but above the muscle – preventing fat embolism from occurring. Surgeons from Cadogan Clinic were involved in writing these guidelines. However, outside of Britain, some surgeons inject the fat deeper, either purposefully as they (wrongly) feel it gives better results, or accidentally as they lack training and experience greatly increasing the risk to the patient.

Some of the common problems that occur when having BBL surgery in Turkey have sadly led to the deaths of patients:  

The risks of surgery not being explained

In 2019, Melissa Kerr died from a fat embolism travelling to her lungs following BBL surgery in Istanbul. The inquest into her death concluded in 2023 that she had not been fully informed of the risks of BBL surgery. Although the government are not responsible for the individual decisions made by British citizens while they are in another country, there is a drive to ensure people understand the risks of undergoing cosmetic surgery abroad. In 2023, UK officials travelled to Turkey to discuss the regulatory frameworks and the protection that British people travelling to Turkey can expect to receive.

Lack of aftercare

In January 2024, 26-year-old Demi Agoglia died a few days after having a BBL in Turkey. Her family had tried to persuade her not to go abroad for the surgery. Her surgeons had signed her surgery off, during a follow up appointment despite her saying she felt unwell, and she died of a heart attack in a taxi, on her way to the airport. Patients who have BBL surgery abroad may not receive comprehensive aftercare following their surgery, and may return to the UK within a few days of their procedure, meaning they are not in direct contact with the clinic that are responsible for their care.

Lack of process

In 2018 Leah Cambridge flew to Turkey with her mother to undergo Brazilian Butt Lift Surgery. She suffered a fat embolism, resulting in three heart attacks during her procedure, sadly leading to her death. During the inquest into her death, her mother spoke about how they had been taken straight from the airport to the hospital. Leah had been handed a set of consent forms (which should explain all the risks of your surgery) to sign. She was given very little time to look at these and pressured into signing the forms. Ms Cambridge has opted to have surgery in Turkey as she was reportedly unhappy with her body after she had children and was worried about fat around her midriff. She had organised her surgery through a third-party company who had acted as a middleman between her and the surgeon, meaning she didn’t necessarily have a full picture of her surgeon or the hospital where her procedure was taking place.

Unfortunately, due to her loss in confidence about her appearance she may have been more vulnerable and susceptible to the pressure placed on her to sign the consent forms without having the time to fully read them. This bad practice is highly concerning and indicates that often these surgeons are more concerned about the money they are making from their patients, rather than safety standards. 

What Happens if You Have Problems When You Arrive Home?

Despite these stories, many patients still opt to have surgery abroad. However, if you suffer complications or problems once you are back in Britain, you may not have been given a contact to help you.

This leads patients who have experienced complications from surgeries abroad to seek treatment and advice from the NHS. In 2022, it was reported that 324 British people who had undergone cosmetic procedures in Turkey needed corrective surgery on the NHS following their return to the UK. This has cost the NHS up to £30 million.

As well as costing the UK significant amounts of money, it is also important to remember that the NHS does not focus on cosmetic needs. They will treat any functional complications such as infection, seroma or haematoma (build-up of liquid or blood under the skin) or necrosis (tissue death) but will not correct any cosmetic problems that this treatment may lead to. This means that, as well as suffering physically uncomfortable complications, you will also impact your desired results. This may lead to you having to seek further cosmetic surgery to correct the appearance of your body.

Having your cosmetic surgery in the UK means you have access to comprehensive aftercare, including further surgical intervention if required. 

What is Our Advice for Anyone Considering BBL Surgery in Turkey?

Although low costs and impressive (occasionally misleading) marketing may encourage people to consider surgery abroad, we do not recommend travelling outside of the UK for surgical procedures. The risks heavily outweigh the benefits, and you may suffer complications which affect your health (or, tragically, your life). Undergoing surgery abroad means you are likely to not have comprehensive aftercare, you may not fully know your surgeon or the hospital where your surgery is taking place or have a full consultation.

If you are interested in BBL surgery and wish to speak to a specialist consultant surgeon, contact our dedicated surgical patient advisors who will be able to answer your questions and organise a thorough bespoke face to face consultation at our Chelsea based hospital. Our specialist surgeons achieve long-lasting,  high quality results and have been actively involved in writing the safety guidelines for Brazilian Butt Lift. 


Five Reasons to Rethink BBL Abroad

If you are considering surgery abroad, here are five reasons you may want to decide to have surgery in the UK instead:

Regulation

All medical facilities in the UK are regulated and inspected by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to assess every element of their quality, including their standard of care, safety communication and leadership. All reports are published, allowing patients to read the findings, giving you an extra layer of trust in the care you are receiving. You may not be able to access an equivalent to this for surgery in another country.  

Aftercare

Every patient who has surgery at Cadogan Clinic has access to our nursing team 24/7. Any questions or concerns you may have can be addressed immediately by specialist nurses. If you fly back from surgery abroad only a few days after your procedure and have questions, you may not be able to access care from your clinic abroad as quickly. 

Consultation process

One of the most important parts of your surgical journey is your consultation with your surgeon. You must have at least one in person consultation with your surgeon before your surgery. During this consultation, you will discuss your concerns with your surgeon, and they will be able to explain the results you can expect, as well as how your surgery will work for your desired BBL Shape. This will include whether you require a specific approach to BBL, such as Skinny BBL, which is suited to slim patients. 

Understanding the risks

All cosmetic procedures carry certain risks. When opting for any surgery, it is important that you understand these risks from the beginning of the process and how they may affect your surgery. For all procedures at Cadogan Clinic, patients are sent their informed consent digitally, to read in the run up to their surgery day. The surgeon will then sit down with the patient on the day of surgery and talk them through the form fully, giving them time to ask any questions before they sign it. 

Surgical technique

BBL carries the highest level of risk of any surgical cosmetic procedure. Despite this, it is a transformational procedure which can restore both male and female patient’s confidence in their bodies when it is carried out correctly. Outside of the UK, surgeons may inject the fat too deeply into the tissue increasing the risks to the patient’s safety. At Cadogan Clinic, our surgeons only carry out Superficial Gluteal Filling where the fat is injected under the skin, above the muscle – a much safer technique. 

A Word From Our Founder Mr Bryan Mayou, and Pioneer in Fat Transfer Techniques

“As an experienced plastic surgeon, I understand how important patient safety is full stop, but particularly so for complex higher risk procedures like the Brazilian Butt Lift (BBL) procedure. Over my extensive career, I've witnessed far too many unfortunate cases stemming from individuals seeking cheaper options overseas. The risks and dangers associated with undergoing surgery in unfamiliar settings simply outweigh any potential financial savings.

Choosing to undergo a BBL procedure abroad exposes you to a multitude of risks, including substandard surgical practices, inadequate post-operative care, and limited recourse in the event of complications. From infections and fat embolisms to necrosis and asymmetry, the potential consequences of cutting corners in pursuit of a lower price tag are simply not worth it.

Your health and safety are my utmost priority, and I urge you to entrust your BBL journey to a reputable, qualified, plastic surgeon who operates in a safe and accredited facility. Your peace of mind and optimal results are worth every penny invested in your care.” 


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