February 17th, 2010, 6:00 am ·Post a Comment · posted by Colin Stewart
Photo: Above, Dr. W. Earle Matory Jr. discusses liposuction operation during press conference in 1997. (Photo by Chris Carlson, Orange County Register) Below, Judy Fernandez (Photo courtesy of People.com)
Actress Heidi Montag’s recent 7 1/2 hours of cosmetic procedures reminds Newport Beach plastic surgeon Dr. Milind Ambe of the bad old days of plastic surgery in Southern California.
In particular, he says, it brings back memories of a fatal 10 1/2-hour operation that killed a La Habra woman in 1997.
Judy Fernandez (right), 47, died of blood loss after plastic surgeon Dr. W. Earle Matory Jr. (below) removed 15 to 20 pounds of fat by liposuction and performed a mini-face lift, brow lift and laser procedures on her face, neck and chest.
“It really hurt our specialty for a long time,” Ambe said. “People would say, ‘Plastic surgery isn’t safe.’ “
Matory’s medical license was revoked for at least three years.
He had been director of cosmetic surgery at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worcester, Mass., and was board-certified in plastic surgery.
COMPARE AND CONTRAST
Treatments of Fernandez and Montag were similar in combining many cosmetic procedures into one operation, and both provoked intense criticism. Both were expensive – the price tag for Fernandez was $20,000; for Montag, at least $30,000 and perhaps much more.
But the ages of the patients were different and the results were different.
Montag, 23, came through her procedures without injury, although she said she was in jeopardy during recovery.
She said she “almost died after my procedure” because she “had too much Demerol like Michael Jackson did and my breathing was five breaths per minute which is like almost dead.”
“I was in so much pain, and like, literally crying, and just saying, I– I felt like I wanted to die almost,” she said.
Montag’s surgeon, Dr. Frank Ryan of Beverly Hills denied that she was in danger. In fact, the operation consisted of just “little tweaks … all kind of small things,” he said.
Montag had her ears pinned back, got new breast implants, a brow lift, Botox in her forehead and between her eyebrows, buttock augmentation, a nose job revision, fat injections in her cheeks and lips, a chin reduction, and liposuction on her neck, waist, hips and thighs.
“Pushing the envelope, trying to satisfy patients’ requests, may be pushing the envelope on safety too,” said Ambe. He is the surgeon who performed last summer’s facelift for Lynne Curtin of “Real Housewives of Orange County.”
Shortly after Fernandez’ death, the Orange County Register published the following list of liposuction-related tragedies:
California, 1994: A 39-year-old woman has a heart attack and stops breathing after liposuction surgery at a La Jolla clinic. She dies because her doctor does not know how to respond to the emergency.
California, 1996: A 43-year-old Los Angeles woman bleeds to death after her doctor leaves her bedside after surgery to check on another injured liposuction patient recovering at his home.
Texas, 1996: A 48-year-old Texas woman dies from a massive infection that liquefies her trachea after her doctor punctures her colon.
Nevada, 1997: Three Las Vegas-area women operated on by different surgeons die within three months of each other from blood clots, after cosmetic surgeries that included liposuction.
Orange County, 1997: A 45-year-old La Habra woman dies a grisly death when doctors pump 32 liters of fluid into her body, diluting her blood and then sucking out so much of it that she goes into shock by the end of a 10 1/2-hour surgical marathon.
New York, 1998:
A 33-year-old man dies from complications of general anesthesia after undergoing liposuction performed by a woman who was not a doctor.
Kentucky, 1998: An obese 28-year-old Kentucky man loses so much blood from liposuction that he dies of shock.
Utah, 1998: A woman in her 40s dies from a fluid and electrolyte imbalance from an overly ambitious surgery.
California, 1998: A 25-year-old hairstylist has a possible reaction to a drug given to her for liposuction surgery and dies two weeks after slipping into a coma.
Despite technological advances, liposuction can still be hazardous, as demonstrated by these incidents from last year:
Brazil, 2009: Tameka Foster Raymond, 37, the wife of singer Usher, suffered a cardiac arrest while she was being prepared for liposuction. She was hospitalized for more than a week.
Florida, 2009: A 37-year-old nurse in Florida died after liposuction at a medspa.
Liposuction remains the second-most-popular type of plastic surgery, behind breast implants.
Doctors in the United States performed 341,000 liposuction operations in 2008, compared to 355,700 breast implant procedures, according to the latest survey by the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.
Bottom photo:Dr. W. Earle Matory Jr. in 1997. (Photo by Chris Carlson, Orange County Register)