Dr. Saber’s Blog

Is a Brazilian Butt Lift Dangerous? A Plastic Surgeon Speaks Out

You need some information before you schedule a Butt Augmentation Procedure

The Brazilian Butt Lift (BBL)truly seems to be the perfect body enhancement. A plastic surgeon takes fat from areas of the body where you don’t want fat and then re-inserts it into the places where you (or your husband, boyfriend, hyper-critical friends, or perhaps your surrounding culture) want you to be bigger and rounder.

It’s sort of like Robin Hood: take from the excessive and give to the needy. And it’s all your own fat. What could go wrong?

Well, a lot, actually.

What is a Brazilian Butt Lift?

This excess-fat-transfer-to-buttocks notion has more than caught on. The Brazilian Butt Lift is the fastest-growing cosmetic surgery in the world. According to a recent survey by the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, the number of BBLs performed globally has grown by 77.6% since 2015. In 2019, there were over 40,000 BBLs performed in the US alone.

Brazilian Butt Lift surgery is not only the fastest-growing cosmetic procedure, it’s also the most dangerous.

How is a BBL procedure done?

Illustration of liposuction

The surgery itself (known in medical terms as gluteal-fat grafting) involves injecting copious quantities of fat into the patient’s buttocks. But the buttocks are where several large veins, some as big as drinking straws, do their critically important job of getting blood back to the heart and lungs.

The extraction of body fat (via liposuction) during a BBL, and the injection of that fat through multiple incisions into various areas of the buttocks, are each quite a vigorous process. Therefore, the patient is completely unconscious; under general anesthesia administered by an attending anesthesiologist.

Why is BBL so dangerous

There are numerous things that can go wrong during this fat transfer procedure. The most alarming is what’s called an “embolism.” Put simply, this is what can happen:

  1. During the surgery, the cosmetic surgeon injects the fat salvaged from another part of the body into the buttocks, under pressure, through a long tube known as a cannula.
  2. The cannula is semi-rigid, which means that it flexes during the procedure, and a less skilled surgeon may not always know exactly where the tip of the cannula is injecting fat.
  3. This can be a big problem. If any of that injected fat gets into a vein, that vein will naturally transport it into either the heart or lungs.
  4. If this happens, the patient will have a resulting blockage called an embolism. And embolisms are frequently fatal.

An urgent 2018 warning from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons noted the odds of a fatal embolism resulting from a BBL are 1 death for every 3,000 Brazilian Butt Lift surgeries. More recent surveys are somewhat more encouraging, but even the most positive surveys firmly establish buttock enhancement surgery as the riskiest of all plastic surgery procedures.

How to reduce your BBL risks

BBL risks are real, but they can be mitigated by choosing an extremely competent, experienced, and board-certified plastic surgeon.  

Who makes a good candidate for Brazilian Butt Lift surgery?

The primary qualification of a good prospect for BBL is a set of reasonable expectations. A recent experience in my practice demonstrates that point.

BBL before and after

A prospective patient, whom I’ll call Ms. X, sent me some photographs of several women’s post-BBL derrières. The photos illustrated the outcome Ms. X hoped for from the BBL procedure she was asking me to perform. Those photographs each depicted a ridiculously tiny waist above a pair of impossibly massive buttocks. Even if the photos were authentic, i.e., not Photoshopped, they were anatomically outlandish.

During my consultation with the prospective patient, I learned that the photos had actually been selected by her husband.

I advised Ms. X that surgically conforming her body to the photos would be both medically impossible to achieve and unethical to even attempt. After Ms. X and I discussed what a BBL after 20 years will look like, we jointly agreed on a procedure that achieved a result that is both far more naturally attractive, and far more sustainable.

What physical attributes make a good BBL candidate?

  • Physically, the candidate must be neither obese nor overly slender.
  • She (it’s almost always a she) should be within 15 pounds of her ideal body weight.
  • The patient must possess enough fat accessible in areas of the body such as the abdomen, lower back, or lower body, sufficient to satisfactorily swell her derrière to her fantasy proportions.
  • She must be in good general health, as evidenced by a clearance from her primary care physician.

How much does a BBL cost?

The expense of a Brazilian Butt Lift procedure will vary from locale to locale and from surgeon to surgeon. So how much is BBL? The cost for one procedure can be anywhere from $3,000-$30,000. It is not uncommon for multiple procedures to be required. None of this procedure will be covered by insurance as it is not considered medically necessary.

Why are there large BBL cost differences between doctors?

Simply put, the cheapest surgeries are provided by establishments literally known as “chop shops.” These doctors perform surgeries on an assembly-line, mass-production scale. Not surprisingly, it is this end of the buttock augmentation spectrum that is associated with most of the notoriously botched BBLs. Many of the cheaper fees and worse results are available outside the United States, in countries such as Turkey and Thailand.

Board certification by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, in combination with experience, will help assure the candidate that her surgeon is well trained and very qualified.

How about BBL recovery time?

Syringes of fat

BBL recovery is challenging, to say the least. At best, it’s a prolonged period of uncomfortable inconvenience. One thing is certain: you won’t be sitting for a while. And you’ll have to wear a faja for a while – that’s a corset-like compression garment that stabilizes the shape of the buttocks. Massages, which are also prescribed to keep the new fat where it belongs, can be more than a little painful.

The larger the BBL, the higher the chance that some of the newly transplanted fat cells will die and some will not be accommodated by the resident fat cells. These anomalies may cause asymmetrical results, which might require additional procedures to correct. So, the final results may not be all that final.

Is there an alternative to BBL?

Yes. There are always buttock implants. But they don’t look or feel natural and they show up on X-rays. (An X-ray is how Kim Kardashian proved that she doesn’t have butt implants. She hasn’t said anything publicly about a Brazilian Butt Lift procedure.)

There’s also a Sculptura butt lift, a filler that the FDA has approved for facial restoration. It can be used off-label, but filling out a big butt takes a lot of Sculptra and it’s expensive – $20,000 or more.

Is the Brazilian butt lift trend just a fad?

Many who have considered the rise of BBL believe there is something amiss in the very notion that women’s bodies should conform to any trend. The underlying message to women seems to be: “The way you were naturally meant to be isn’t good enough.” That message is conveyed from a multitude of platforms, by influencers of all stripes and varieties.

That message is often simply false. Appropriate plastic surgery is designed to restore and/or improve a person’s appearance, using the standard of that unique person’s naturally intended beauty. But it should never be used to conform to a dangerous passing fancy.

Why Choose Saber Plastic Surgery?

Dr. Sepideh Saber is an American Board of Plastic Surgery-certified plastic surgeon practicing in the greater Los Angeles area.

She graduated from Stanford University’s world-renowned medical school and did her plastic surgery residency at the equally lauded University of Southern California (USC). She then completed a fellowship at New York University (NYU) in the extremely challenging and delicate disciplines of hand surgery and microsurgery.

Dr. Saber offers a more sensitive, female perspective for patients of all ages, genders, and orientations. Former patients from all walks of life have praised not only their treatment outcomes but her caring, thoughtful approach to a wide array of appearance and health-related matters.

To request a consultation, call 818-818-2939 or schedule a consultation online.

Dr. Saber takes her patients’ safety very seriously. Her facility’s Covid-19 patient safety procedures exceed all CDC and World Health Organization recommendations. Masks are required in our office at all times during the coronavirus pandemic.

The practice of Dr. Saber is located in Encino, CA. We are convenient to patients in the Los Angeles area and Burbank, Pasadena, South Pasadena, San Marino, La Canada Flintridge, La Crescenta, North Hollywood, Altadena, Alhambra, San Gabriel, Rosemead, Monterey Park, East Los Angeles, Commerce, Huntington Park, West Hollywood, and Downtown Los Angeles.

Dr. Saber graduated from Stanford University’s world-renowned medical school and did her plastic and reconstructive surgery residency at the equally lauded University of Southern California. She then completed a fellowship at New York University in the extremely challenging and delicate disciplines of hand surgery and microsurgery.

Dr. Saber offers a more sensitive, female perspective for patients of all ages, genders, and orientations. Former patients from all walks of life have praised not only their treatment outcomes but her caring, thoughtful approach to a wide array of appearance and health-related matters.
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    Dr. Sepideh Saber, MD, FACS

    👩🏻‍⚕️ Board Certified Plastic Surgeon
    🏫 Stanford/USC/NYU Trained
    🏥 Encino, CA | Book a Free Consult
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    ✨ Our patient is 4 weeks post Tummy Tuck and Breast Reduction.

Her scars are a bit fresh. Overtime they will heal and become less visible. ✨

Give us a call to set up a complimentary consultation with #DrSaber who will create a customized plan for you!
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    ✨ Our patient is 3 months post-op from our Tummy Tuck and Fat Transfer for her Breast Lift procedure. 

She wanted to avoid implants, so we opted in for the subtle augmentation. 
We are absolutely thrilled with her results✨

Give us a call to set up a complimentary consultation with #DrSaber who will create a customized plan for you!

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  • What patients say about Dr. Saber

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    I was fortunate to find Dr. Saber after researching board-certified surgeons who specialize in breast cancer reconstruction revision surgery. I knew I was in good hands from the moment I spoke with the lovely and efficient Marlene, Dr Saber's office manager. Dr Saber patiently listened to my concerns and, after examining me, explained what I could realistically expect the outcome to be from another surgery. She also explained to me that she would need to review my previous surgery notes before we could discuss a possible further surgery, which I found comforting and highly ethical. I also discussed a couple of other procedures that I would like done, including fat removal from my large upper arms that had caused me great embarrassment for several years. Dr. Saber is an excellent surgeon who is incredibly kind and genuine. She truly understands the female body and the emotional aspect of body insecurities yet, she is transparent about what can and cannot be done and takes time to discuss realistic expectations and outcomes. My breast reconstruction revision surgery will take place in the New Year, but in the meantime, I have the most fabulous upper arms that I recently flaunted in a strapless dress (something I have not done in years). Dr Saber is truly one of a kind, and I still cannot believe how fortunate I am to have found her. I highly recommend Dr Saber.

    Linda DeCarlo November 29, 2023

    I don’t have enough wonderful words to describe Dr Saber and Marlene! I had a tummy tuck done this year and from start to finish the entire experience was amazing. Marlene is always so helpful and works so hard to make every detail a breeze for you. When I had my consultation with Dr Saber I was at a point of complete agony with my body. She instantly took that stress and frustration off my shoulders! As a woman not being heard by doctors for years I left that consultation with happy tears knowing I had finally found my Dr. It was a major surgery and I felt completely zen and at peace going in because she really does make you feel that safe. I didn’t think I would ever look the way I do now! She gave me the gift of having the body I kept fighting for. I will never stop recommending her.

    Monica Prusa October 9, 2023

    I saw Dr. Saber when I broke my wrist. I ended up having to have surgery. She did an excellent job and I am healing nicely. She was very professional, but was also very kind and compassionate. I would highly recommend her!!

    Sandy Schaupp September 13, 2022

    I LOVED DR SABER!!! There are a few reasons why I chose her. One was because she’s a female Doctor that was my goal who also did a good job (which I was able to confirm with all her before and after photos) and what sold me was my safety in mind. She made me feel like I was in the best hands ever along with Marlene who coordinated everything THANK YOU LADIES! Dr Saber helped me get back the body I have always desired. I had a lot of stomach fat from weight gain and I lost weight so a lot of my weight was in my front lower and upper abdomen. Now I have a super beautiful curvy body like an hourglass after a tummy tuck and lipo she did. She understood the assignment hahaha . I’m 32 years old no kids just wanted to enjoy my younger body looking and feeling beautiful and she really took good care of me. Even after hours I had an emergency due to my fault but she was there and got back to me very quickly and I’m very grateful. I also think her work says a lot because I stopped taking pain medication on the 3rd day after surgery and was fine with very minimal pain I was able to tolerate the healing process. Highly recommend going with her I just had a wonderful experience and would do it all over again if I had too. Maybe after I have kids. Thanks Dr Saber and team <3

    STEPHANIE d July 15, 2022

    Dr.Saber is by far one of the best plastic surgeons. I love how she takes her time to explain any procedure to the patients understanding. She always makes sure to answers any and all questions.From fillers to body contours she’s the one you want.

    Katherine Melara February 15, 2022

    Dr Saber is amazing! She is caring and very informative. I went in for fillers and she explained procedure step by step. I highly recommend her and look forward to future visits.

    Amanda Vazquez December 18, 2020

    Dr. Saber was friendly, knowledgeable and professional. She took time to listen, answer all my questions and was forthright in her recommendations. Her staff was friendly and helpful. I was very happy with the results and plan on going back. If you are looking for a first rate professional experience look no further she is the doctor for you!

    T R December 18, 2020

    Dr. Saber is one of a kind plastic surgeon with a heart of gold. She is a well verse plastic surgeon that puts her patient's needs before anything else. She genuinely cares about every single patient, and her work speaks for itself. I notice every post-operative result on her Instagram (@saberplasticsurgery) the patients have this glow that radiates through. I have been going to Dr. Saber for my Botox for the past 3 years, and love the results every time. I know who I will be going to for any future plastic surgery needs, and will confidently refer family and friends to Dr. Saber for any Botox, fillers, and plastic surgery consultations.

    Rudy Garcia December 16, 2020

    I have nothing but great things to say about Dr. Saber! I am so pleased with my results from a breast augmentation she performed on me back in late June! She answered all my questions and concerns before and after my surgery. She’s very easy to get in contact with and she’s so nice. She made feel so comfortable throughout the whole process. 100/10 Lover her work!!

    Amanda Villegas October 15, 2020

    Dr Saber is hands down the best surgeon! She took her time answering my questions and explained procedure in detail. After doing liposuction six months ago, I am extremely happy with my results and I appreciate her so much.

    Marlene Cosentino October 15, 2020

    Dr. Saber is so kind and thorough with her patients! She is an amazing doctor and genuinely cars about everyone she comes in contact with. I would recommend her to anyone for any hand surgery or cosmetic procedure.

    Rachel Meach October 15, 2020