The recent death of Argentine model Silvina Luna, apparently related to complications from plastic surgery, has put the spotlight on such treatments which are at times out of control in a world subject to the tyranny of images touched up with filters.
Luna, also an actress and television presenter, died in August aged 43 after a series of complications following her surgery that the media followed every step of the way.
She had been operated on her thighs and glutes, and went from inflammation to hypercalcaemia and kidney failure. She died while awaiting a kidney transplant.
“There was a lot of material, excess material,” said the family’s lawyer, Fernando Burlando, without specifying the substance administered.
“I don’t believe any human being can tolerate so much material from outside the body ... I saw the removal of plenty of hard material which in my view was not human tissue, even though it was wet and wrapped in human tissue,” the lawyer described crudely after the autopsy.
Her surgeon, Aníbal Lotocki, had been sentenced in 2022 to four years in prison. He was banned from practising medicine for five years due to various malpractice cases, including that of Luna.
The physician, known for 15 years as a celebrity doctor, is now free thanks to an appeal, although the lawyers of otherpatients have asked for him to be remanded. Lotocki’s own lawyer insists that courts have not established a “causal link” between the operations and the pathologies.
Another television figure, former dancer Mariano Caprarola, died in August, aged 49, after suffering from severe kidney failure and a cardiac crisis. He had also undergone plastic surgery with Lotocki on his glutes. He accused him of “injecting him with death."
The complications suffered by both brought light to the potential use of methacrylate, a polymer no longer marketed in Argentina. Although the product was authorised for plastic surgery, it must be administered minimally and for very specific uses, such as tooth or bone prosthetics.
Yet due to its very high price, patients wonder what he really injected them with. A doctor who wished to remain anonymous said he had seen Lotocki’s patients who had parts of their bodies hard “as a rock.”
“When you wanted to give them an injection the needle would bend," he said.
Over the last few years, the speciality of aesthetic radiology has appeared, which locates and characterises the filler material and can also conduct a risk assessment for an operation.
On the rise
Argentina has traditionally been one of the Latin American countries with the greatest number of plastic surgeries taking place, together with Brazil and Colombia.
Yet in recent years there has been a strong increase across the board. Edgardo Bisquert, president of the Argentine Society of Plastic, Aesthetic and Reparative Surgery, estimates a 20 percent rise over the last five years.
“The country has become more affordable, due to the exchange rate, for many patients from abroad to come,” the specialist said and also pointed to the pandemic and social networks as a trigger for surgery.
"During the pandemic, many people were glued to their phones and looked in the mirror a lot more. Plus, social networks and their famous filters transform a person without undergoing surgery and bring about the desire to look like the picture,” he stated.
Bisquert invites patients to study the specialist who is to perform the procedure in depth.
"You learn how to operate in three months and improve in a couple of years,” said plastic surgeon Maximiliano Gil Miranda, who described how some patients show him touched-up photos as a model of what they want.
“It’s a very profitable speciality. You say no to a procedure and that means US$1,500 or 2,000 less,” he pointed out and warned about the “oversupply of plastic surgery” by doctors who are not prepared for it.
by Philippe Bernes-Lasserre, AFP