In a city that has witnessed rapid and unregulated growth of cosmetic surgery clinics over last few years, the death of 32-year-old Narendra Kumar following a liposuction surgery gone wrong was, according to specialists, a tragedy waiting to happen.
TOI found that not everything is hunky dory behind the doors at these plush clinics which are decorated with photos of chic size-zero models. The doctors here are not always qualified to perform the complex procedures using inadequate facilities. Most even lack basic infrastructure for patients and, in most cases, patients are discharged within a few hours of being operated upon.
Liposuction, specialists say, is not a curative treatment for obesity but a cosmetic surgery for contouring of the body. “Obesity is generalised fat deposition for which bariatric surgery is the correct treatment; liposuction, on the other hand, is best suited for localised fat deposition such as on thighs and buttocks,” says Dr Suresh Chandra Hari, senior laparoscopic and obesity surgeon. Specialists say that the procedure is largely misunderstood with unqualified doctors using it on obese patients, oblivious to the fact that it is not the right treatment for weight reduction.
“Correct assessment of the condition is important. We turn away several people because liposuction is not the right procedure for them,” says Dr Venkat Thota, plastic surgeon. Dr Sudhakar Prasad, a senior plastic surgeon, maintains that liposuction is pretty safe but like any operation, it has three possible complications – bleeding, infection and delayed healing and skin damage. “We discuss the risks with patients before going ahead. If the technique is correct, the side effects are minimal,” he said. However, he added that post procedure, around 30% of the patients develop unevenness of surface.
Concerned about the prevailing situation, doctors say that if a plastic surgeon is qualified to perform liposuction, even MBBS doctors are trying their hand on the procedure.
“Alarmingly, there are general surgeons, gynaecologists, dental surgeons and even ENT surgeons who are doing liposuction procedures in the city,” revealed a senior plastic surgeon. He said the onus was on the client to assess the doctor’s credentials before going under the knife.
An estimated 400-500 liposuction surgeries are being carried out in the city every month. Aggressive advertising has only added to the numbers opting for such procedure. However, doctors say that while looking for cheaper options; people often end up at substandard places where chances are high of complications arising during surgery. “Price alone is the determining factor for most people and that’s where they go wrong,” says a doctor. Depending on the case, the procedure may cost a patient anywhere between Rs 50,000 and Rs 3 lakh.
Observers say that there are about 80 centres in the city doing liposuction. If earlier, 90% of the ‘patients’ were women, currently they form around 70-75% of the clientele as men too, are increasingly seeking the services. “The beauty business is the most lucrative one at present. People are spending a fortune on surgical and non-surgical procedures to reduce weight.
Meanwhile, when district health authorities on Monday turned up at Aakruti Cosmetic Surgery Centre in Ameerpet, the clinic where Kumar underwent surgery, they found the office locked with police keeping a close watch .
Dr S Padmaja, senior public health officer, said that she had tried to find out whether the centre was a registered one but failed to get an answer. “If it is not registered, we can close it down,” she said.