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A new mom flew to Miami to get a ‘Brazilian butt lift.’ She didn’t survive the surgery.

(Forbes Conrad/Bloomberg News)

Ranika Hall was not happy with what motherhood had done to her body.

Her 1-year-old daughter was thriving, but Hall’s figure had not rebounded as much as she wanted, her family told NBC Miami.

So, over their objections, Hall left her baby girl with Grandma and flew to Miami. She was going to get a “Brazilian butt lift.”

That’s the layman’s term for what doctors call fat transfer into buttocks, or fat grafting — an increasingly popular surgery in a world where the derrières of Kim Kardashian and Nicki Minaj have made headlines.

In the procedure, doctors use liposuction to suck fat out of the abdomen, thighs or fatty areas around the triceps, then inject the tissue into a patient's buttocks, increasing its size and sculpting its shape.

Hall chose a doctor at Eres Plastic Surgery, which was having a $3,500 butt-lift special.

“Some people are blessed with naturally curvy bottoms,” the clinic says on its Facebook page, which is full of posts about the procedure. “But for the rest of us, we have Brazilian Butt Lift!”

On Thursday, Hall went under the knife of Daniel Calva. The surgery lasted several hours, and doctors were nearly done around 9 p.m.

Then, Hall stopped breathing.

The clinic called 911, and Hall was rushed to an emergency room.

But it was too late. An hour after paramedics were called, Hall was dead.

The medical examiner determined that she died of a fat embolism, according to Eres Plastic Surgery. A piece of fat had been injected into her bloodstream and lodged near her lungs, preventing oxygen from getting into her bloodstream.

Mother of two dies after increasingly popular ‘Brazilian butt lift’ surgery goes awry at Miami area clinic

Her mother, Nicole, told NBC Miami that the news was “unbelievable, like it’s not true. It’s hard for me to grasp ahold of it. I know it’s supposed to be a common procedure. … I’m looking for answers.”

She has started a GoFundMe campaign to help pay for funeral expenses.

As word of the deadly results of Hall’s surgery spread, people realized that Eres was the same cosmetic surgery clinic where Heather Meadows died last year while undergoing the same type of procedure.

“The facility was known as Encore Plastic Surgery and had a different owner,” NBC Miami reported. “The location has been a plastic surgery center for at least a decade but has changed names three times and owners multiple times in those 10 years.”

Hialeah police were called to investigate both cases.

Meadows’s death has been ruled an accident, according to police. Hall’s death remains under investigation.

Giannina Sopo, chief operating officer of Eres Plastic Surgery, said the clinic’s doctors are well-trained and have performed thousands of procedures. Their complication rate is below the national average, she said.

“Surgeries are inherently risky,” she told The Washington Post. “Pulmonary fat embolism is a very common risk in liposuction cases. We did everything we could with this patient. She was transferred to a higher level of care. Our staff and our doctor did everything they should have done.”

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the number of people who had buttock augmentation with fat grafting grew 26 percent between 2015 and 2016. (The statistics only count procedures performed by ASPS surgeons.)

As The Washington Post’s Ben Guarino wrote, fat grafts are mostly safe, though there have not been extensive studies on the cosmetic procedure, which is only about two decades old:

In an early study of over 500 patients, the major reported complications were cellulitis and bruising in less than one in 40 procedures. (Cosmetic surgeries, like all surgeries, carry some degree of risk for pain, bleeding or other complications.)
That said, there is a paucity of information about cosmetic fat grafts that worries some experts. A 2012 paper published in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery examined nearly a thousand articles on autologous fat grafting — that is, fat relocated from one body part of a patient to another. … (The authors) found that neither “high-quality data” nor a “published consensus on the optimal technique” exist for fat grafts.

But some plastic surgeons say they worry that too many doctors — lured by the chance to make a quick buck on relatively low-risk cosmetic procedures — are dabbling in plastic surgery without proper training and, in doing so, are putting patients at risk.

“A lot of this stuff is out-of-pocket paying — there’s no insurance that covers buttock augmentation,” said David H. Song, immediate past president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. “It creates some perverse incentives for people that are not trained.”

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The organization consists of doctors who are board-certified plastic surgeons, Song said.

Calva, who performed Hall’s surgery, is a board-certified general surgeon but not a board-certified plastic surgeon, according to Sopo, the COO at Eres.

But Sopo defended her doctors’ practices. Hall’s death was the first time a patient had died during a fat grafting procedure, she said, and the center’s complication rate is below average.

“We have immensely talented doctors on staff,” she said. “They’re board-certified. Some of them went to the best medical schools in the world. We don’t skimp on safety here.”

Miami, Sopo said, is a mecca for plastic surgery, and she insists her center’s quality is not diminished because it specializes in these procedures and do many of them.

“We do a lot of volume here,” she said, “because what we have are better prices.”

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