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Thinking of Getting Silicone Injections? They Could Be Deadly, Warns FDA

Here's what you need to know

Earlier this week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a warning about the dangers of injectable silicone for body contouring. Now, let's break that down -- what procedures exactly should we be wary of? And are there certain types of dermal fillers and silicone that are okay? We talked to Dr. Sheila S. Nazarian, MD, board certified plastic surgeon at Nazarian Plastic Surgery, to find out.
First off, not all injectable dermal fillers are automatically bad: the FDA has approved the use of a select few classifications of fillers in the face, such as collagen and hyaluronic acid, which are sold under names like Restylane and Juvederm. And if it's body contouring you're interested in, Dr. Nazarian notes that fat transfer surgery and other FDA-approved implants offer a much safer option.

Where you start to get into dangerous territory, however, is specifically with injectable silicone in larger parts of the body -- which means you can't use it to contour areas like your butt or breasts, full stop. "These kinds of uses can lead to serious injury, permanent scarring or disfigurement, and even death," warns the FDA. This is in part because the silicone can migrate: "Injectable silicone does not stay where you put it, but descends with gravity into many tissue levels, and it is impossible to remove without cutting out that tissue completely," says Dr. Nazarian. "I have seen it become infected, leaving my patients disfigured, and on more than one occasion, leading to their death." In addition to becoming infected, the silicone gel can also move into the blood stream, causing potentially deadly blockages -- a danger that's increased when the injection site has many blood vessels (which is why the FDA notes that butt injections are especially risky).

Another thing you have to look out for? The actual substance being injected. You see, dermal fillers like the aforementioned Restylane and Juvederm are FDA-approved -- but injectable silicone is uncategorically not. Even medical grade silicone, which is used for treating retinal detachment, is not technically approved as a dermal filler by the FDA. Even worse are the unregulated versions: "Injectable silicone is often not sterile, purchased from a home goods store, and not performed by medical professionals," explains Dr. Nazarian.

Luckily, as long as you have a trusted medical professional on your side, you're not likely to be offered dangerous treatments like this. That said, if something looks too good to be true, do some research, because it just might be. "Make sure the doctor you are going to is board-certified and trained in the specialty you are going to them for," says Dr. Nazarian. Even then, you've got to be careful, though: Dr. Nazarian recommends actually calling the American Board of Medical Specialties and inquiring about your doctor -- which is especially important, since she points out, "The American Board of Cosmetic Surgery is not a real board. The American Board of Plastic Surgery is a real board. It is hard for patients to understand what is the truth." The distinction comes down to the fact that, of the two, only The American Board of Plastic Surgery is officially approved by the American Board of Medical Specialties -- which marks an important difference between plastic surgeons and cosmetic surgeons.

When it comes to something as important as going under the knife (or the syringe, as the case may be), bottom line is, you have to do your homework. "Price and social media drive patients to both legit and unethical practitioners," says Dr. Nazarian, "It is up to them to dig deeper and really understand the training and experience of the person who is going to be doing something to their bodies."


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