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Why Colombia’s ‘Garage Clinics’ Continue to Perform Plastic Surgery Procedures Amid Extreme Health Risks

First Posted: Feb 15, 2016 06:00 AM EST
Why Colombia’s ‘Garage Clinics’ Continue to Perform Plastic Surgery Procedures Amid Extreme Health Risks

Photo : Getty Images/Andreas Rentz

Colombia is perhaps considered the plastic surgery capital in Latin America. As a matter of fact, the country has always been in the top 10 with the highest number of operations, along with Venezuela and Brazil.

According to the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS), a plastic surgery procedure is performed every five minutes in Colombia. And among the most popular choices were liposuction and breast implants.

Due to the rising popularity of cosmetic surgery in the country, there has been no shame in taking one's body in for alterations. Vacation packages promising corporeal transformations are even offered by travel agencies and plastic surgeons in the country.

As several locals and tourists seek plastic surgery procedures in Colombia because of its relatively cheap prices, these low-cost procedures, which are reportedly done in so-called, "garage clinics," come with extreme health risks and criticism.

On a weekly basis, Imbanaco Medical Center plastic surgeon Alfonso Riascos Villegas revealed that an average of five patients, whose procedure were carried out in "garage clinics" visit a his office basis due to irregularities in their skin, necrosis, infections and asymmetries.

Villegas also added that plastic surgery malpractices have been quite rampant in Colombia due to the much cheaper procedures performed by untrained or unlicensed staff.

"In the region (Cali), there are 90 plastic surgeons and more than 700 in the country (Colombia as a whole), but general practitioners and those from other areas are performing these procedures," Villegas said, as per El Tiempo. "It's a great risk to go to people without specialized training."

Among the most common malpractice is the application of biopolymers and all kinds of substances in order to augment the buttocks or have a "butt lift," Latin Correspondent reported. There are also risks of malpractice in rejuvenation procedures where substances are injected in the face, forehead, cheekbone, lips and wrinkles.

"The worst is when it comes to biopolymers as they cannot be removed entirely and they go on to provoke allergic reactions for the rest of (the patient's) life," Colombian Society of Plastic Surgery president Lina Triana said.

In addition, poorly-performed liposculpture and breast augmentations are also some of the common results of plastic surgery botches in Colombia. In fact, many victims end up being hospitalized since the procedures are performed by untrained practitioners.

Triana also emphasized that all plastic surgery often comes with risks. However, these threats can be reduced when performed by appropriately trained staff, who possess the knowledge, skills and experience required for each particular procedure. And with the assistance anesthesiologists and the necessary medical equipment, malpractice can be minimized.

Despite the warnings and the well-documented malpractice cases reported by the media, desperate patients are still going to "garage clinics" and insalubrious clinics to seek plastic surgery procedures.

Today, Colombia is in the seventh place worldwide when it comes to plastic surgery procedures. Experts said the Latin American nation carries out about 440,000 cosmetic surgery and nonsurgical procedures.

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