In the operating room with Dr. Luis Botero, plastic surgeon


Please note that some of the images in this article have been edited to preserve patient privacy.  

Today, Dr. Luis Botero has invited me to observe surgery at IQ Interquirofanos in the Poblado section of Medellin.  He is performing full-body liposuction and fat grafting of the buttocks.

Dr. Luis Botero, in the operating room

Dr. Luis Botero, in the operating room

The facility: IQ Interquirofanos

Interquirofanos is located on the second floor

Interquirofanos is located on the second floor

IQ Interquirofanos is an ambulatory surgery center located on the second floor of the Intermedica Building across the street from the Clinica de Medellin (sede Poblado).  The close proximity of this clinic to a hospital is an important consideration for patients in case of a medical emergency.

The anesthesiologists estimate that 90% of the procedures performed here are cosmetic surgeries but surgeons also perform gynecology, and some orthopedic procedures at this facility.

The are seven operating rooms that are well-lit, and feature modern and functional equipment including hemodynamic monitoring, anesthesia / ventilatory equipment/ medications.  There are crash carts available for the operating rooms and the patient recovery areas.

There are fourteen monitored recovery room beds, while the facility currently plans for expansion.  Next door, an additional three floors are being built along with six more operating rooms.

Sterile processing is located within the facility with several large sterilization units.  There is also a pharmacy on-site.  The pharmacy dispenses prosthetics such as breast implants in addition to medications.

The only breast prosthetics offered at this facility are Mentor (Johnson & Johnson) and Natrelle brand silicone implants (Allergan).  In light of the problems with PIP implants in the past – it is important for patients to ensure their implants are FDA approved, like Mentor implants.

In the past seven years, over 31,000 procedures have been performed at Interquirofanos.  The nurses tell me that during the week, there are usually 30 to 35 surgeries a day, and around 15 procedures on Saturdays.

Prior to heading to the Operating Room:

Prior to surgery, patients undergo a full consultation with Dr. Botero and further medical evaluation (as needed).  Patients are also instructed to avoid aspirin, ibuprofen and all antiplatets (clopidogrel, prasugrel, etc) and anti-coagulants (warfarin, dabigatran, etc.) for several days.  Patients should not resume these medications until approved by their surgeon.

Complication Insurance

All patients are required to purchase complication insurance.  This insurance costs between 75.00 and 120.00 dollars and covers the cost of any treatment needed (in the first 30 days) for post-operative complications for amounts ranging from 15,000 dollars to 30,000 dollars, depending on the policy.   All of his clients who undergo surgery at IQ Interquirofanos are encouraged to buy a policy from Pan American Life de Colombia as part of the policies for patient safety at this facility. International patients may also be interested in purchasing a policy from ISPAS, which covers any visits to an ISPAS-affiliated surgeon in their home country.

Today’s Procedures: Liposuction & Fat Grafting

Liposuction – Liposuction (lipoplasty or lipectomy) accounts for 50% of all plastic surgery procedures.   First the surgeon makes several very small slits in the skin.  Then a saline – lidocaine solution is infiltrated in to the fat (adipose) tissue that is to removed. This solution serves several purposes – the solution helps emulsify the fat for removal while the lidocaine-epinephrine additives help provide post-operative analgesic and limit intra-operative bleeding.  After the solution dwells (sits in the tissue) for ten to twenty minutes, the surgeon can begin the liposuction procedure.  For this procedure, instruments are introduced to the area beneath the skin and above the muscle layer.

During this procedure, the surgeon introduces different canulas (long hollow tubes).  These tubes are used to break up the adipose tissue and remove the fat using an attached suctioning canister.  To break up the fat, the surgeon uses a back and forth motion.  During this process – one hand is on the canula.  The other hand remains on the patient to guide the canulas and prevent inadvertent injury to the patient.

fat being removed by liposuction

fat being removed by liposuction

Due to the nature of this procedure, extensive bruising and swelling after this procedure is normal.  Swelling may last up to a month.  Patients will need to wear support garments (such as a girdle) after this procedure for several weeks.

Types of liposuction:

In recent years, surgeons have developed different techniques and specialized canulas to address specific purposes during surgery.

Standard liposuction canulas come in a variety of lengths and bore sizes (the bore size is the size of the hole at the end of the canister for the suction removal of fat tissue.)  Some of these canulas have serrated bores for easier fat removal.

Ultrasound-assisted liposuction uses the canulas  to deliver sound waves to help break up fat tissue.  These canulas are designed for patients who have had repeated liposuction.  This is needed to break up adhesions (scar tissue) that forms after the initial procedure during the healing process.

Laser liposuction is another type of liposuction aimed at specifically improving skin contraction.  This is important in older patients or in patients who have excessive loose skin due to recent weight loss or post-pregnancy.  However, for very large amounts of loose skin or poor skin tone in areas such as the abdomen, a larger procedure such as abdominoplasty may be needed.

During laser liposuction, a small wire laser is placed inside a canula to deliver a specific amount of heat energy to the area (around 40 degrees centrigrade).  The application of heat is believed to stimulate collagen production (for skin tightening).  Bleeding is reduced because of the cautery effect of the heat – but post-operative pain is increased due to increased inflammatory effects.  There is also a risk of burn trauma during this procedure.

There have been several other liposuction techniques that have gone in and out of fashion, and many of the variations mentioned are often referred to by trademark names such as “Vaser”, “SmartLipo”, “SlimLipo” which can be confusing for people seeking information on these procedures.

Fat Grafting

Fat from liposuction procedure to be used for buttock augmentation

Fat from liposuction procedure to be used for buttock augmentation

Fat grafting is a procedure used in combination with liposuction.  With this procedure, fat that was removed during liposuction is relocated to another area of the body such as the buttocks, hands or face.

In this patient, Dr. Botero injects the fat using a large bore needle deep into the gluteal muscles to prevent a sloppy, or dimpled appearance.  Injecting into the muscle tissue also helps to preserve the longevity of the procedure.  However, care must be taken to prevent fat embolism*, a rare but potentially fatal complication – where globules of fat enter the bloodstream.  To prevent this complication, Dr. Botero carefully confirms the placement of his needle in the muscle tissue before injecting.

Results are immediately appreciable.

fat being injected for buttock augmentation. (Photo edited for patient privacy).

fat being injected for buttock augmentation. (Photo edited for patient privacy).

The Surgery:

Patient was appropriately marked prior to the procedure.   The patient was correctly prepped, drapped and positioned to prevent injury or infection.  Ted hose and sequential stockings were applied to lessen the risk of developing deep vein thrombosis.  Pre-operative procedures were performed according to internationally recognized standards.

Sterility was maintained during the case.  Dr. Botero appeared knowledgeable and skilled regarding the techniques and procedures performed.

His instrumentadora (First assistant), Liliana Moreno was extremely knowledgeable and able to anticipate Dr. Botero’s needs.

Circulating nurse: Anais Perez maintained accurate and up-to-date intra-operative records during the case.  Ms. Perez was readily available to obtain instruments and supplies as needed.

Overall – the team worked well together and communicated effectively before, during and after the case.

Anesthesia was managed by Dr. Julio Arango.   He was using an anesthesia technique called “controlled hypotension”.  (Since readers have heard me rail about uncontrolled hypotension in the past – I will write another post on this topic soon.)

Controlled Hypotension

However, as the name inplies – controlled hypotension is a tightly regulated process, where blood pressure is lowered to a very specific range.  This range is just slightly lower than normal (Systolic BP of around 80) – and the anesthesiologist is in constant attendance.  This is very different from cases with profound hypotension which is ignored due to an anesthesia provider being distracted – or completely absent.

With hypotensive anesthesia – blood pressure is maintained with a MAP (or mean) of 50 – 60mmHg with a HR of 50 – 60.  This reduces the incidence of bleeding.

However, this technique is not safe for everyone.  Only young healthy patients are good candidates for this anesthesia technique.  Basically, if you have any stiffening of your arteries due to age (40+), smoking, cholesterol or family history – this technique is NOT for you.  People with high blood pressure, any degree of kidney disease, heart disease, peripheral vascular disease or diabetes are not good candidates for this type of anesthesia. People with these kinds of medical conditions do not tolerate even mild hypotension very well, and are at increased risk of serious complications such as renal injury/ failure or cardiovascular complications such as a heart attack or stroke.  Particularly since this is an elective procedure – this is something to discuss with your surgeon and anesthesiologist before surgery.

The patient today is young (low 20’s), physically fit, active with no medical conditions so this anesthesia poses little risk during this procedure. Also the surgery itself is fairly short – which is important.  Long/ marathon surgeries such as ‘mega-makeovers‘ are not ideal for this type of anesthesia.

Dr. Julio Arrango keeps a close eye on his patient

Dr. Julio Arango keeps a close eye on his patient

However, Dr. Arango does an excellent job during this procedure, which is performed under general anesthesia.   After intubating the patient, he maintained a close eye on vital signs and oxygenation.  The patient is hemodynamically stable with no desaturations or hypoxia during the case.  Dr. Arango remains alert and attentive during the case, and remains present for the entire surgery.  Following surgery, anesthesia was lightened, and the patient was extubated prior to transfer to the recovery room.

He also demonstrated excellent knowledge of international protocols regarding DVT/ Travel risk, WHO safety protocols and intra-operative management.

Surgical apgar score: 9  (however, there is a point lost due to MAP of 50 – 60 as discussed above).

Results of the surgery were cosmetically pleasing.

Post -operative care:

Prior to discharge from the ambulatory care center after recovery from anesthesia the patient (and family) receives discharge instructions from the  nurses.

The patient also receives prescriptions for several medications including:

1. Oral antibiotics for a five-day course**. Dr. Botero uses this duration for fat grafting cases only.

2. Non-narcotic analgesia (pain medications).

3. Lyrica ( a gabapentin-like compound) to prevent neuralgias during the healing period.

The patient will wear a support garment for several weeks.  She is to call Dr. Botero to report any problems such as unrelieved pain, drainage or fever.

Note: after some surgeries like abdominoplasty, patients also receive DVT prophylaxis with either Arixtra or enoxaparin (Lovenox).

Follow-up appointments:

Dr. Botero will see her for her first follow-up visit in two days (surgery was on a Saturday).  He will see twice a week the first week, and then weekly for three weeks (and additionally as needed.)

* Fat embolism is a risk with any liposuction procedure.

**This is contrary to American recommendations as per the National Surgical Care Improvement Project (SCIP) which recommends discontinuation within the first 24 hours to prevent the development of antibiotic resistance.

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Hospital ranks and measures: Medical Tourism edition?


It looks like Consumer Reports is the newest group to add their two cent’s worth about hospital safety, and hospital safety ratings.  The magazine has compiled their own listing and ratings for over 1,100 American hospitals.  Surprisingly, just 158 received sixty or greater points (out of a 100 possible.)  This comes on the heels of the most recent release of the LeapFrog results.  (Leapfrog is controversial within American healthcare due to the unequal weight it gives to many of its criterion.  For example, it is heavily weighed in favor of very large institutions versus small facilities with similar outcomes.)

Consumer Reports has a history providing consumers with independent evaluations and critiques of market products from cars to toasters since it’s inception in the 1930’s.  It’s advent into healthcare is welcome, as the USA embraces new challenges with ObamaCare, mandated EMRs, and pay-for-performance.

While there is no perfect system, it remains critical to measure outcomes and performances on both an individual (physician) and facility wide scale.  That’s why I say; the more scales, scoring systems and measures used to evaluate these issues – the better chance we have to accurately capture this information.

But – with all of the increased scrutiny of American hospitals, can more further investigation into the practices and safety at facilities promoting medical tourism overseas be far behind?

Now it looks like James Goldberg, a bioengineer that we talked about before, is going to be doing just that.  Mr. Goldberg, who is also an author of the topic of medical tourism safety recently announced that his firm will begin offering consulting services to consumers interested in knowing more about medical tourism – and making educated decisions to find the most qualified doctors and hospitals when traveling for care.  He may be one of the first to address this in the medical tourism industry, but you can bet that he won’t be the last..

If so, the winners in the international edition will be the providers and facilities that embrace transparency and accountability from the very beginning.

Overseas Radio Follow-up


As a follow-up for all the overseasradio.com radio listeners (and all my loyal readers) I have posted some additional information on the topics covered during the radio program with Ilene Little from Traveling for Health.com including contact information for several of the physicians mentioned.

in the Operating Room at New Bocagrande Hospital

Thoracic Surgery

Esophageal cancer – during the segment we highlighted the importance of seeking surgical treatment for esophageal cancer at a high-volume center.  One of the centers we mentioned was the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center in Pittsburgh, PA – and the work of Dr. Benny Weksler, MD.

Dr. Benny Weksler*, MD

Hillman Cancer Center

5115 Centre Avenue

Pittsburgh, PA 15232

Phone: (412) 648-6271

He is an Associate Professor in Cardiothoracic Surgery and Chief of Thoracic Surgery at UPMC and the UPMC Cancer Center.  (For more information on Dr. Weksler, esophageal cancer, and issues in thoracic surgery – see my sister site, Cirugia de Torax.org)

(To schedule an appointment via UPMC on-line click here).

We also briefly mentioned Dr. Daniela Molena*, MD at John Hopkins in Baltimore, Maryland.

The Johns Hopkins Hospital

600 N. Wolfe Street

Baltimore, MD 21287

Phone: 410-614-3891

Appointment Phone: 410-933-1233

(The link above will take readers to the John Hopkins site where they can also make an appointment.)

* I would like to note that I have not observed either of these physicians (Weksler or Molena) in the operating room.

We also talked about several of the thoracic surgeons that I have interviewed and observed numerous times, including both Dr. Rafael Beltran, MD & Dr. Ricardo Buitrago, MD at the National Cancer Institute in Bogotá, Colombia.  These guys are doing some pretty amazing work, on a daily basis – including surgery and research on the treatment of some very aggressive cancers.

in the operating room with Dr. Rafael Beltran

Dr. Rafael Beltran is the Director of the Thoracic Surgery division, and has published several papers on tracheal surgery.   He’s an amazing surgeon, but primarily speaks Spanish, but his colleague Dr. Buitrago (equally excellent) is fully fluent in English.

Now the National Institute website is in Spanish, but Dr. Buitrago is happy to help, and both he and Dr. Beltran welcome overseas patients.

Dr. Buitrago recently introduced RATS (robot assisted thoracic surgery) to the city of Bogotá.

Now, I’ve written about these two surgeons several times (including two books) after spending a lot of time with both of them during the months I lived and researched surgery in Bogotá, so I have included some links here to the on-line journal I kept while researching the Bogotá book.  It’s not as precise, detailed or as lengthy as the book content (more like a diary of my schedule while working on the book), but I thought readers might enjoy it.

In the Operating Room with Dr. Beltran

There are a lot of other great surgeons on the Bogotá website, and in the Bogotá book – even if they didn’t get mentioned on the show, so take a look around, if you are interested.

in the operating room with Dr. Ricardo Buitrago

Contact information:

Dr. Ricardo Buitrago, MD 

Email: buitago77us@yahoo.com

please put “medical tourist” or “overseas patient for thoracic surgery” in the subject line.

We talked about Dr. Carlos Ochoa, MD – the thoracic surgeon I am currently studying with here in Mexicali, MX.  I’ve posted all sorts of interviews and stories about working with him – here at Cartagena Surgery under the “Mexicali tab” and over at Cirugia de Torax.org as well.  (Full disclosure – I assisted Dr. Ochoa in writing some of the English content of his site.)

out from behind the camera with Dr. Ayala (left) and Dr. Carlos Ochoa

He is easily reached – either through the website, www.drcarlosochoa.com or by email at drcarlosochoa@yahoo.com.mx

HIPEC / Treatment for Advanced Abdominal Cancers

I don’t think I even got to mention Dr. Fernando Arias’ name on the program, but we did talk about HIPEC or intra-operative chemotherapy, so I have posted some links to give everyone a little more information about both.

HIPEC archives at Bogotá Surgery.org – listing of articles about HIPEC, and Dr. Arias.  (I recommend starting from oldest to most recent.)

Dr. Fernando Arias

Oncologic Surgeon at the Fundacion Santa Fe de Bogotá in Bogotá, Colombia.  You can either email him directly at farias00@hotmail.com or contact the International Patient Center at the hospital.  (The international patient center will help you arrange all of your appointments, travel, etc.)

Fundacion Santa Fe de Bogota

   www.fsfb.org.co

Ms. Ana Maria Gonzalez Rojas, RN

Chief of the International Services Department

Calle 119 No 7- 75

Bogota, Colombia

Tele: 603 0303 ext. 5895

ana.gonzalez@fsfb.org.co  or info@fsfb.org.co

Now – one thing I would like to caution people is that email communications are treated very differently in Mexico and Colombia, meaning that you may not get a response for a day or two.  (They treat it more like we treat regular postal mail.  If something is really important, people tend to use the phone/ text.)

Of course, I should probably include a link to the books over on Amazon.com – and remind readers that while the Mexicali ‘mini-book’ isn’t finished yet – when it is – I’ll have it available on-line for free pdf downloads.

Back in the OR with Drs. Ham & Abril, bariatric and general surgeons


My first case this morning with another surgeon was cancelled – which was disappointing, but I still had a great day in the operating room with Dr.  Ham and Dr. Abril.  This time I was able to witness a bariatric surgery, so I could report back to all of you.

Dr. Ham (left) and Dr. Abril

I really enjoy their relaxed but detail oriented style – it makes for a very enjoyable case.  Today they performed a sleeve gastrectomy** so I am able to report – that they (Dr. Ham) oversewed the staple line (quite nicely, I might add).  If you’ve read any of the previous books, then you know that this is an important step to prevent suture line dehiscence leading to leakage of stomach contents into the abdomen (which can cause very serious complications.)  As I said – it’s an important step – but not one that every doctor I’ve witnessed always performed.   So I was a pleased as punch to see that these surgeons are as world-class and upstanding as everything I’d seen already suggested..

** as long time readers know, I am a devoted fan of the Roux-en-Y, but recent literature suggests that the sleeve gastrectomy is equally effective in the treatment of diabetes.. Of course – we’ll be watching the research for more information on this topic of debate. I hope further studies confirm these results since the sleeve gives patients just a little less of a drastic lifestyle change.. (still drastic but not shot glass sized drastic.)

Dr. Ham

They invited me to the show this evening – they are having several clowns (that are doctors, sort of Patch Adams types) on the show to talk about the health benefits of laughter.  Sounds like a lot of fun – but I thought I better catch up on my writing..

I’ll be back in the OR with Los Doctores again tomorrow..

Speaking of which – I wanted to pass along some information on the anesthesiologist for Dr. Molina’s cases since he did such a nice job with the conscious sedation yesterday.  (I’ve only watched him just yesterday – so I will need a few more encounters, but I wanted to mention Dr. Andres Garcia Gutierrez all the same.

Goodreads Giveaway ends Sept 18th!


Just a reminder – your chance to win a free autographed copy of (the newly revised) Bogotá! a hidden gem guide to surgical tourism ends September 18th.  You can still enter here!

If you aren’t familiar with Goodreads – it’s an on-line ‘Book Club’ that allows people to share their reviews of their favorite (and not so favorite books.)  It also allows readers to catch up with and connect with their favorite authors..

Back to Bogota


Raleigh – Durham Airport (RDU) – A more personal post today for readers –

The nice thing about traveling to Colombia is that even though the distances are pretty far geographically, flight times are pretty short.  After a one hour flight to Miami, it’s just three short hours to Bogotá.  Despite that – Bogotá is certainly a world away from my quiet life in Virginia.

– Now I am here in the airport, beginning my journey back to Colombia, starting with a week in Bogotá, my favorite of all Colombian cities (so far!)  My adoration of Bogotá came as quite of a surprise to me – and still surprises me after all these months.  I’d enjoyed Cartagena – that beautiful, historic but steamy coastal city, but I expected that.  It has architecture, museums, monuments along with the ocean, and a latin-caribbean feeling that I like so much.  Anyone can love Cartagena with its elegant fortresses, warm sunny weather and welcoming residents.  No – Bogota is different.  It’s high mountain elevation (8000 ft) gives it a unique climate (eternal fall) with distinct rainy seasons. The city sprawl extends the entire basin of the foot of the mountains – the city itself is surrounded by a haze mix of cloud, smog/ pollution from its inhabitants..

No, my enjoyment of Bogotá was a complete surprise.  I had expected to tolerate the city, to endure the bustle, rush, the traffic and the very condensed humanity that is a city of ten million people.  It was, in my mind, a necessary evil as part of my research for writing the book.  I am many things, but a city girl?  Not hardly.  A more rustic/ rural / redneck gal could not be found, in northern Nevada, West Virginia and now, in the smallest of urban cities, a mere hamlet of southern Virgina.  I expected to be intimidated by the sheer volume of people; after all, I hate crowds, and busy public places. But somehow, it was the complete opposite – it was invigorating, intoxicating.

The very sophistication, the people, the life of the city was addicting in a way I never expected.  As three months turned to four, and then five – I kept expecting for my love affair with the city to fade or flame out.  But it hasn’t, and I am already mourning my return to the USA.

In Bogota Surgery news:

The New York Times has recently published an article talking about the HIPEC procedure as “bringing hope to patients**”.  In typical media fashion, they manage to interview the one surgeon who talks about the procedure in an exceedingly cavalier fashion – and the author of the article reinforces this with his terminology (which I find disturbing.)   Did he really need to describe the surgery thusly:

“After slicing the man’s belly wide open, he thrust his gloved hands deep inside, and examined various organs, looking for tumors. He then lifted the small intestine out of the body to sift it through his fingers.

As he found tumors, he snipped them out. “You can see how this is coming off like wallpaper,” Dr. Lowy said as he stripped out part of the lining of the man’s abdominal cavity.

After about two hours of poking and cutting, Dr. Lowy began the so-called shake and bake. The machine pumped heated chemotherapy directly into the abdominal cavity for 90 minutes while nurses gently jiggled the man’s bloated belly to disperse the drug to every nook and cranny. ”

Blatent sensationalism in my opinion – certainly guaranteed to sell papers.  If they terrorize a few patients in the process, I guess they don’t care..  Using patient friendly terminology doesn’t mean writing an article like a Stephen King novel..  But then – I am guessing that Andrew Pollack has never had a close family member or friend facing this sort of illness.

The author also does a poor job researching his sources or the actual clinical indications for the procedure, but Bogota Surgery readers will be interested to note the cost of the procedure in the USA ranges from 20,000 to 100,000 – which certainly provides plenty of incentive for medical tourism.

However, despite this fantastic language – the authors voice serious concerns about the effectiveness and appropriateness of this procedure.  As you know, I have been following the available research and will continue to do so – to bring readers more information about this procedure; it’s feasibility and effectiveness.

** Since publishing my initial article on HIPEC with hope in the title, there have been a spate of articles using that terminology, as well as several blatent rip-offs of my original article.  The success of this article has been surprising, as well as the level of plagerism with on-line media, including large, well-known media outlets.