Behind the hype of the ‘Brazilian butt lift’ and its founder

BBC News : On Saturday Ivo Pitanguy, the world-renowned Brazilian plastic surgeon and pioneer of the “Brazilian butt lift” died at the age of 90 – just a day after carrying the Olympic flame through Rio.

"Alt text: Before and after images showcasing the stunning results of a buttock lift or augmentation procedure, enhancing the shape and contour of the buttocks."
Image by BedexpStock from Pixabay

His legacy has inspired plastic surgeons around the world. And techniques like the “butt lift” have become increasingly popular with patients.

The American Society of Plastic Surgery dubbed 2015 another “year of the rear” as, it says, “procedures focusing on the derriere dominated surgical growth”.

So what is behind this phenomenon? And does it hurt?

What is a ‘butt lift’ or buttock augmentation?

There are several types of procedures. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons a buttock augmentation changes the size and shape of the patient’s buttocks by transferring and injecting fat, or by surgically placing silicon implants into the buttock.

The “Brazilian butt lift” specifically involves fat grafting or injection. The patient undergoes liposuction to remove fat from their abdomen, hips and thighs which is then processed and re-implanted into the buttocks.

Conversely a regular buttock lift reduces the volume of the buttocks by removing excess skin and fat from the region. The procedure is commonly performed on people who have lost a significant amount of weight.

Who was Dr Pitanguy?

According to Dr Marc Pacifico, British plastic surgeon and spokesperson for theBritish Association for Aesthetic and Plastic Surgeons, Dr Pitanguy’s contribution to the field was immense.

“I think just to mention that he was the creator of the butt lift trivialises his contribution to plastic surgery.

“His contribution is so wide reaching. He singularly advanced techniques in reconstructive and aesthetic surgery like breast reconstructions and rhinoplasty. He helped us understand how we tailor face lifts, or how we do body contour surgery and tummy tucks.

“It is very unusual in the modern world that he managed to a have a profound impact in so many areas because doctors usually specialise in one thing.”

On the website of his clinic he wrote:

“An individual’s suffering is not proportional to his deformity, but to the perturbation caused to his harmony by living with his image.”

The International Society of Aesthetic and Cosmetic Surgery reported a 30% increase in the number of buttock augmentation or buttock lift procedures performed globally in 2015, reaching nearly 320,000 procedures.

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons also reported a marked increase in the amount of “Brazilian butt lift” procedures performed over the past several years.

Dr Pacifico says media coverage of the generous behinds of celebrities like Kim Kardashian or Nicki Minaj may partially explain the procedure’s rise in popularity, as admirers seek to emulate such figures by artificial means.

He also states that individuals who live in hot climates where more of the body is exposed are more likely to undergo butt lifts.

The backside holds a special place in Brazilian culture and since the 1970s some celebrities have traded on having the perfect derriere.

Bottoms have featured in Brazilian music and poetry throughout the 20th Century. In 2011, the country started the “Miss Bumbum” competition which judges women’s bottoms and annually crowns a “Miss Butt”.

Is it safe?

Dr. Pacifico states that fat-grafting butt lifts, which involve injecting fat taken from other areas of the body into the buttock, are generally safe.

“The worst case is fat necrosis where the [re-injected] fat dies and can be become lumpy and infected. I don’t perform butt lifts with implants because I think this procedure can cause more problems. There is a greater risk of the implants flipping or moving which can put pressure on nerves which run into the legs and thighs.”

While all surgery carries risks, Dr. Pacifico emphasized the importance of utilizing a reputable and qualified surgeon.

The most dangerous procedure associated with butt lifts is the injection of silicone (silicone shots) into the buttocks. Most countries outlaw this practice due to the risks of severe infection or blockage, which can be fatal. It involves injecting silicone into the buttocks without protective measures, allowing it to spread in the body. The US Food and Drug Administration says that silicone is not approved to augment tissue anywhere in the body.

The Miami Herald reported injuries and deaths from illegal silicone injections and disreputable surgeons.

How long is the recovery process after surgery?

After buttock fat injections, I advise patients to avoid sitting for up to six weeks. The fat must ‘survive’ in its new home. When you sit you put pressure on your buttocks which reduces the blood flow to the area.

“Without a constant blood supply, the new fat might not survive.”

Patients must sleep on their stomachs or side while recovering. Inflatable mattresses and chairs with holes offer comfort for back sleepers, relieving pressure on the buttocks.

What’s the cost?

Buttock augmentation costs vary widely, while alternatives include butt padding and bum lifting jeans. priced under £100 ($130).

That sounds a lot less painful.

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