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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Liposuction in a Myrtle Beach apartment


Another case of sketchy plastic surgery reported – this time in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.   Yet again, I would like to caution readers about seeking ‘cheap’ plastic surgery on the internet.  (I’m not saying don’t look – please do!  But look smartly.)  This doesn’t only apply to plastic surgeons, but to all surgeons, physicians, and healthcare professionals.

‘The internet’ is not all the same – the grade of information can vary widely from scientific journals (highly reputable/ reliable) to fiery but heavily opinionated blogs (unreliable/ unscientific) to frankly fraudulent such as in this instance (in the story above).  People need to use caution, due diligence and common sense when researching anything, but particularly medical information on the internet.  You need to do your homework.

There are a few things to consider when researching medical information/ providers on the internet.

1.  Is the information independently verifiable?  (and by what sources?) 

As a medical writer – this is a huge portion of my job – verifying the information obtained during interviews, etc.  But when you are looking to purchase goods or services – you need to do a little investigative work yourself.  Luckily, once again – the internet makes this simple.

The first thing you should investigate is – the person making the claims/ and what their focus is.  Use this website for an example, if you like.  So take the following information (below) – that is easily available on the site..

(If this information isn’t readily available on the site – that should make you suspicious.  “Anonymous” blogs or hidden author websites are NOT reputable.  People with valid, truthful information have nothing to hide, and are not ashamed to stand by their work/ writings.)

so you’ve gathered the following information  from the site:

Author – XXXX   credentials claimed/ authority source:  Physician (MD/ DO etc.)

Product or service advertised on the site:  surgical procedure XX

Use this information to answer the following questions:

1. Who is this person?

2. How do they know this/ what special knowledge do they possess?  (for example – a hairdresser shouldn’t be giving medication advice)

3.  Can I verify this?

– Medical personnel can be verified thru state licensing boards. 

Some states make this easier than others, but ALL states have this information available to consumers.  So go to the website of the licensing board (medical board for doctors, nursing board for nurses) and look the person up.

In this example, I am currently licensed in several states – so pick one, and do an internet search for the board of nursing for that state.  (Tennessee is particularly easy since they post educational information, license violations etc. on-line).  If this licensing information isn’t easy to find on the website, call the board.**

If the website (ie. plastic surgery clinic) lists an address – use that state for your search.

In another example – as seen below – we’ve looked up a surgeon at the Colorado Medical Board.

Looking up a medical license

Looking up a medical license

– All physicians should be licensed in the state of practice (where their clinic is.)  If they aren’t licensed in that state – STOP and find another provider.  Even if the doctor claims to be from another country, he or she is STILL required to have an active license in the state they are working in.**

Here is an example of physicians sanctioned by the Texas medical board (all of this information is freely available on the internet for your safety.)


Here is another example of a surgeon with multiple medical board actions against her.

licence details

license details

Many of the state medical boards will let you read the complaints, actions and disciplinary measures against physicians licensed in that state.  However, some states allow physicians under investigation to ‘surrender’ or inactive their license to avoid having disciplinary measures recorded.

– All surgeons, or specialty doctors should also be listed with specialty boards – such as the American College of Surgeons, or the American Society of Plastic Surgery(While membership is not mandatory, the vast majority of specialty trained surgeons maintain memberships in their specialty organizations.)  Other things to consider while investigating credentials:

Do the credentials match the procedure?  (Is this the right kind of doctor for this procedure?)

These credentials should match the procedure or treatment you are looking for: such as Plastic surgeons advertising breast augmentation.

This may sound obvious but it isn’t always the case.  (for example:  dermatologists shouldn’t be doing eyelid lifts or plastic surgery, primary care physicians shouldn’t be giving Botox injections, general surgeons shouldn’t be performing lung surgery etc.)
If you aren’t sure what procedures the doctor should be performing, look at the specialty surgery board – it should list the procedure.  i.e plastic surgery and liposuction.

4.  After verifying this information, it is time to do a basic internet search on the individual.  To do this – perform both a Yahoo! and Google search.   This should give you at minimum, 10 to 15 results.

These results should include several non-circular results.  “Circular results” are results that return you to the original website, or affiliated websites.   For example: Using the information from above – both Google and Yahoo! return several results that link directly to this website.  These results also return links for the sister sites.  All these of these are circular results – that return you to the starting point without providing any additional outside information.

However, if you scroll down the results:  outside links should appear.  These should include articles/ publications or scholarly work.  Other search results may include more personal information, social networking sites and other newsworthy articles.  This gives you a more comprehensive picture of the provider.

One of the things we should mention, is patient testimonials.  While many providers include extensive patient testimonials, I disregard these for several reasons:

– There is usually not enough information to verify the authenticity of these patient claims.  “I love my doctor. He’s a great surgeon.” – Gina S.  doesn’t really tell you anything.  In particular, there is no way to verify if there really is a Gina S. or if she is a fictitious creation of the website author.  (There have been several cases where people working for the doctors have created ficticious accounts including before and after photos talking about procedures that they never had).  Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security with patient testimonials.

– Some people use blogs, or message boards for the same purpose, and the same caveats apply.

– Another reason that patient testimonials are not useful in my opinion, is that patients (and their families) are only able to provide subjective information.  Several of the cases in the news recently (of fraudulent individuals posing as doctors) had several “happy patients’ to recommend them.  Patients, for the most part – aren’t awake and able to judge whether the surgery proceeded in a safe, appropriate fashion.  The testimonials are merely a comment on the physician’s charisma, which may give future patients a false sense of security.

I’ve finished my search – Now what?

   Use commonsense:

– Surgical treatments should be performed in an appropriate, sterile environment like a hospital or freestanding clinic.  A reputable surgeon does not operate in the back of a motor home, a motel room or an apartment.  (All of these have been reported in the media.)  If the setting doesn’t seem right – leave.  You can also investigate the clinic.

– Bring a friend.  In fact, most surgeons will require this, if you are having liposuction or another large procedure.  Doctors don’t usually drive their patients around (as was done in several recent cases.)  The exception to this rule is medical tourism packages.  These packages often include limousine transportation services but these services are provided by a professional driver (not the doctor, or ‘his cousin’).  Your friend/ companion is not just your driver – they are also there to help feel out the situation.  If something seems amiss – do not proceed.

– if the price is too cheap – be suspicious.  If every other provider in the same location charges a thousand dollars – why is this doctor only charging a hundred dollars? Chances are, it’s not a sale – and he/ she is not a doctor.

– Use reputable sources to find providers – Craigslist is not an appropriate referral source.

– Are the claims over-the-top?  Is the provider claiming better outcomes, faster healing or an ‘easier fix’ than the competition? (We will talk more about this in a future post on  “miracle cures’ and how to evaluate these claims.

I hope these hints provide you with a good start to your search for a qualified, safe, legitimate provider.  The majority of health care providers are excellent, however the internet has given criminals and frauds with an easy avenue to lure/ and trap unsuspecting consumers.

** The majority of cases that have been recently reported have taken place in the United States (Nevada, New Jersey, Florida and South Carolina.)  Many of the people perpetrating these crimes have posed as Latin American surgeons to capitalize on the international reputation of plastic surgeons from South America.  They also used these claims to try and explain away the lack of credentials.  A legitimate doctor from Brazil,  Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica or another country, who is practicing in the United States WILL HAVE an American license.

Additional references/ stories on fraudulent surgeons.

(Hopefully this section will not continue to grow)

More on the Myrtle Beach story

Myrtle Beach – a nice article explaining why people should see specialty surgeons

Basement surgery

Article on unlicensed clinics in Asia (medical tourists beware!)

A truly bizarre story about unlicensed dentistry in Oregon

Additional references:

American College of Surgeons – lists doctors distinguished/ recognized as “fellows” in the academic organization, and provides a brief summary of specialties.

Interview with Dr. Freddy Sanabria


Here’s some of the highlights from one of today’s interviews – with Dr. Freddy Sanabria, a charming young plastic surgeon operating here in Bogota – across the street from Santa Fe de Bogota, as a matter of fact.

He does a wide range of procedures including plastic / aesthetic surgery of face and body as well as offering a variety of injectables, laser procedures, and other treatments.

He has a full OR set up contained within two floors of the Centro Medico de La Sabana building.  The equipment was refreshing modern, along with the facility itself, with good lighting and nice sized ORs.

His English is excellent, and polished, courtesy of several training stints in the US as a medical student, and later, as a resident.  He has a series of infomercials on YouTube in Spanish with English subtitles..

I won’t be able to tell you much more until I take a trip to the OR. (and I’m saving the best details for the book!)