A Brazilian butt lift has one of the highest mortality rates of any cosmetic procedure - here's why it's risky

A Brazilian butt lift has one of the highest mortality rates of any cosmetic procedure - here's why it's risky
A Brazilian butt lift takes about a month to heal. Christopher Polk/Getty
  • During a Brazilian butt lift (BBL), a surgeon will use liposuction to remove fat from your body.
  • Surgeons then inject this fat into your butt, resulting in a larger behind and a slimmer appearance.
  • A 2017 report found that 3% of surgeons had a patient die after a BBL, usually from a fat embolism.

As years go by and beauty standards change, plastic surgery trends change with them. More and more people have been desiring bigger butts, which is why some have turned to surgery to enhance their appearance.

In fact, a 2019 global survey found that since 2015, there has been a whopping 77.6% increase in the number of buttock lifts performed - and one of these types of lifts is the infamous Brazilian butt lift, or BBL.

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However, if you're considering getting a BBL, it's important to be aware of the risks associated with the surgery, since some data suggests it's one of the most dangerous cosmetic procedures out there.

Important: Like other cosmetic procedures, a Brazillian butt lift may help improve your self-esteem if you are insecure about your body's appearance. However, procedures like this are not a cure for more serious underlying mental health issues like depression or anxiety.

Here's what you need to know about what a Brazilian butt lift is, how it's performed, and the risks that come with it.


What is a Brazilian butt lift?

A Brazilian butt lift is when a doctor removes excess fat from your abdomen, arms, inner thighs, love handles, or anywhere else and injects it into your butt.

The BBL not only slims down the area of the body where the fat was removed but also increases the size of your posterior, says Constantino Mendieta MD, FACS, board-certified plastic surgeon at 4Beauty Aesthetic Institute.

Unlike some other butt-boosting procedures that insert silicone implants, a BBL can offer a more natural result, says Mendieta. Plus, getting implants doesn't come with the added bonus of slimming down your other body parts.

What does a BBL cost? The national average cost of a BBL is around $6,500, Mendieta says, but prices vary by surgeon, geographical location, and overall complexity of the case.

The Brazilian butt lift procedure

Different surgeons may have slightly different techniques for how they perform a BBL, but Luis Macias MD, a double board-certified plastic surgeon at Aesthetic MdR, says the procedure is usually as follows:

  1. Before the surgery begins, the surgeon will mark the patient to confirm the areas of liposuction and fat grafting.
  2. The patient will be placed under general anesthesia.
  3. The surgeon injects a tumescent solution into the liposuction areas. This is an IV fluid that includes adrenaline and lidocaine, allowing for easier separation of fat, less bleeding, and a less painful recovery.
  4. Liposuction will be performed in the agreed upon locations. Once the fat is removed, it is separated from the tumescent solution.
  5. The fat is injected into the hip dips and buttocks.

The recovery and healing time are relatively long. Mendieta says BBL patients need about 10 days of downtime to rest and recover before returning to work.

The incision sites will take about two to three weeks to heal, and it will take three to four weeks for a patient to start feeling normal, says Mendieta. It is typical to experience swelling and bruising during this time.

Your surgeon will give you specific care instructions, and you must follow them diligently for the best results. "It is imperative that the patient undergoes the recommended number of massages, wears the appropriate garments, and follows all necessary directions," says Mendieta.

Warning: Mendieta says a patient may have body contour irregularities if they do not wear the appropriate compression garments or if they sleep incorrectly during the healing period. These risks can be avoided by diligently following the aftercare instructions provided by your surgeon.

The risks of a Brazilian butt lift

Every surgery comes with risks, but the BBL is particularly controversial due to accounts of death associated with the surgery.


A 2017 report surveyed 692 surgeons from around the world and found that 3% (about 21) of them experienced a patient death following a BBL. The researchers of this study concluded that "significantly higher mortality rates" seem to be associated with BBL-like surgeries than any other cosmetic surgery.

Note: According to a 2020 report, the average mortality rate for outpatient cosmetic surgeries is 0.25-0.50 per 100,000 procedures.

One of the major risks of BBLs is fat embolism, says Macias. This is when fat enters the bloodstream, moves through the blood vessels, and eventually causes a blockage of the lungs, which can be fatal.

Autopsies of BBL patients have revealed that fat embolism occurred when fat was injected into or under the patient's muscle, Macias says. Therefore, it's important that patients are aware of this risk and choose a surgeon whose technique involves only injecting fat into the subcutaneous layer of the buttocks, above the muscle. You can reduce your risk by going to a board-certified plastic surgeon who is experienced in the procedure.

Other risks of the BBL are those associated with many other surgeries like blood clots and infection, says Mendieta.


Insider's takeaway

A Brazilian butt lift can enhance the size and shape of your butt while also contouring your body parts with excess fat. The new look may result in more confidence and better self-esteem.

However, it's important to note that this surgery comes along with risks, so you must take your decision very seriously if you decide to go forward with it, and be sure to get the procedure done by an experienced board-certified plastic surgeon.

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