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Exploring the Trend: Butt Fillers - Are They Worth The Risks?

A round, pert butt has been popularised by the Kardashians and is now commonly referred to as the “Brazilian Butt lift” or BBL for short.

Once upon a time, the only way to achieve this was hitting the squat rack HARD or having surgical implants or fat transfer.

Not so anymore...easy access to dermal fillers means that butt filler is an increasingly popular treatment. But is this exceptionally risky procedure really worth it?

What's it all a-butt?

Butt filler, gluteoplasty, buttock augmentation, non-surgical BBL or what ever you want to call it, is a treatment for the “correction of the congenital, traumatic and acquired defects and deformities of the buttocks and the anatomy of the gluteal region; and for the aesthetic and volume enhancement of the contour of the buttocks.”

Cocke & Richardson documented the first purely cosmetic butt augmentation back in 1973. In more recent times it has been popularised by the Kardashians and is now commonly referred to as the “Brazilian Butt lift” or BBL for short.

Butt lift/BBL/Brazilian Butt Lift procedures are being performed by anyone from highly qualified and experienced surgeons to beauticians as the treatment, designed to give the time honoured hour glass shape, has gained popularity.

Originally, using silicone implants or fat transfer, surgeons would augment the butt in highly clinical settings. More recently, huge volumes of dermal fillers are being injected into the cheekiest of cheeks with a needle or a cannula. This is happening in salons and even in people's homes across the country. 😬.

I’m hopeful that this has sent a shock wave through you like it did me, but sadly, I suspect not. Because aesthetic treatments, in general, have grown exponentially in popularity and acceptance over the last few decades. This has, of course, lead to an increase in the number of people who want to train in these treatments. BUT As the UK has NO REGULATIONS regarding who can train, the products they can use or where they can deliver treatments from, there has been a massive increase in complications in all types of aesthetic treatments...especially where dermal fillers are involved.

As a female who has treatments, and being an established aesthetics nurse I am not against cosmetic treatments...far from it! You can prize my anti-wrinkle injections from my cold, dead hands. But ethics, safety and professionalism must be at the top of a practitioners priority list. This does not appear to be the case, especially when it comes to bum filler.

Who can carry out butt filler?

Anyone. Really. But typically, it's inexperienced, non-medical practitioners (beauticians, carpenters, bank clerks etc) administering butt fillers...the vast majority of healthcare practitioners wouldn't touch this treatment with a bargepole because they know just how risky it is.

Lay injectors have no medical training or professional accountability. They often inject dangerously huge volumes of unlicenced dermal fillers during a BBL treatment.

That's shocking, right?

Well, even in the most experienced and qualified of hands, in the most sterile of clinical environments, the BBL (surgery) is known as the deadliest cosmetic procedure. Yeah, even when performed by a surgeon, this treatment is risky as hell!

So what about when “Tamara”, who used to work on the check-out in Tesco, pops 700ml of filler in someones bottom in her pop up clinic/hair salon on the high street/her Nan's dining room? As you might guess, the result is a huge (and growing) number of serious complications.

What are the potential complications of a BBL?

There are plenty...and many of them are common...

Infection, discomfort, asymmetry, severe bruising, numbness, nerve damage, bleeding, blood clots, vascular occlusion, fat embolus, poor wound healing, skin loss, discolouration, fluid accumulation, scarring, stroke, sepsis and in some cases, even death are all reported complications.

So, if I were to decide my derrière needed an aesthetic intervention, my cold, dead hands is a very real possibility. In fact, recent research suggest mortality from the BBL is just getting worse - even with calls to improve it's safety.

Why is BBL such a risky treatment?

Now, I may be a registered medical professional, but my buttock anatomy knowledge is pretty limited, I'll admit. It certainly wasn’t a core subject back at nurse school, but I do know there’s plenty of really important stuff back there (major nerves, blood vessels and muscles) which don't much like being interfered with.

The risk of death for BBL surgery is at least 10 times that of many other cosmetic surgery procedures. The main concern is that the injected fat can get into blood vessels, travel to the lungs and block blood vessels in the lungs...causing a pulmonary embolism - which can be fatal. Swap out fat for filler...see where I'm going with this?

A lack of regulation within the aesthetics industry only contributes to the wild west and blasé approach many seem to have towards these treatments. Often, they are deemed beauty treatments, so "the public" don't really know how to choose a decent practitioner.

Highly experienced and specifically trained plastic surgeons are apparently increasing safety (despite the stats suggesting otherwise) and improving positive outcomes following butt lift surgery. This is not the case for butt filler- butt surgery's cheaper cousin. As these treatments are often performed by inadequately trained and unaccountable practitioners, complications are significantly on the rise.

This is apparent if you ever visit one of the many aesthetic complications Facebook groups. The alarming level of ignorance when complications are encountered is shocking.

When help and advice is requested from the poor butt-filler-gone-wrong client it is immediately apparent that there is a significant lack of knowledge and training regarding butt filler complications. It is all too common and is woefully inadequate. Dangerous in fact.

As a nurse, with over 20 years clinical experience in emergency medicine and 7 years experience in aesthetics, you won’t catch me working on anyones peach. Nor will you see me in the queue at Tamara’s Nans house to get my own behind inflated. Even when you treat your boom boom to a highly rated plastic surgeon the mortality rate is estimated at 1 in every 3000 cases, fat embolus the main cause of death.

It is really worth it?!

What should I do if my butt filler goes wrong?

If you are still tempted, despite my grave warning, and you embark on a bum upgrade with filler and it does go wrong (1 in 3 do, I hear) your local GP nor your friendly Emergency Department are likely to not know the first thing about how to assist you. They will likely direct you back to your original practitioner.

It's very possible that they won't be able to help you either - as often prescription medication/medical care is needed, which can only be administered by a medic.

In these instances, seek the help of a medically qualified aesthetic practitioner. They will be able to help. Ensure you know what you were injected with - ideally have the box and lot number/batch number.

The complications are sometimes so serious an escalation of care is frequently required. Be prepared to pick up the bill in this instance.

So regardless of whether it's a highly respected, experienced and trained plastic surgeon sucking the fat out my gut and putting it in my tush, or Tamara on her Nan’s Ikea dining room table…the riskiness of butt augmenting procedures makes them a VERY hard pass from me, thanks.

Altering ones posterior is something I will happily bow out of, as a patient and as a practitioner.

Still wanting a perkier posterior, but want to avoid the butt filler?

I'm pleased you've taken heed!

If you really want your tail altering, there are treatments like EMsculpt - which uses electromagnetic energy to cause muscles to contract quicker and more intensely than exercise, leading to reduced fat cells and firmer muscles. But make sure you’ve got the wonga behind you as it’s not a cheap option… see what I did there?

Alternatively you could just get your self a shiny new gym membership and get your ass in the squat rack. Build that peach the old fashioned way! Some things just need time, patience and a little personal effort. Soz.

PS. Tamara’s Nan says she would much prefer that too. Her table isn’t doing so well and no one can sit down.

Side note - Opinion piece. “Tamara” was a name picked at random and is not based an any specific individual. I am also well aware there are plenty offering this treatment with great success rates, with all due respect, its still a hard pass from me.

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