According to USA Today over the past year, the number of cosmetic procedures performed in the U.S. rose by 77 percent. The introduction of chain offices like Lifestyle Lift has made plastic surgery more available and more affordable. However in some cases it also makes the procedures more dangerous. Rather than meeting with a surgeon and going under the knife in a hospital, patients meet with sales personnel and have surgery done in office-park offices.
Elsie Soto underwent liposuction and fat-transfer surgery last year in Miami, Florida. She could not move her legs after the procedure, but the nurse took her home rather than to a hospital. Soto cannot remember being taken to the hospital two days later or the fact that she needed blood transfusions when she arrived. Although she saved between $5000 and $7000 by having her procedure performed at Strax Rejuvenation and Aesthetics Institute, a low-cost, high-volume clinic, her $50,000 hospital bills have negated those savings.
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Many of these clinics have reputations for treating patients in a kind of assembly line. The companies make money based on volume. They move as many people through as they can in as short a time as possible. This makes it difficult to offer patients appropriate care and can lead to medical negligence. Some companies like Strax also require their patients to agree in writing to arbitration before they will perform the procedure. The document is later used to bar those that suffer injury from taking the company to court.
Four of Strax’s patients have died in the last two years. One died of an embolism associated with her liposuction and fat-transfer surgery, another of amedication overdose, the third of a wound infection and the fourth of an unrelated rare genetic disease. The company argues only the first death is actually associated with their procedures and claims to have half the mortality rate of the accepted level. Other plastic surgeons disagree, saying their mortality rate is actually double and all four deaths must be counted according to the standards of the American Association for Accreditation of Ambulatory Surgery Facilities.