The New York City Health Department announced Thursday that it has identified a cluster of Mycobacterium abscessus/chelonae skin/soft tissue infections associated with cosmetic surgery performed in the Dominican Republic. There have been eight cases identified in New York City and two in Connecticut this year. All 10 of these patients reported having undergone cosmetic procedures in the Dominican Republic, and eight had received plastic surgery at Centro International de Cirugía Estética (CIPLA) in Santo Domingo between March 2, 2017 and April 27, 2017. All New York City patients are women between the ages of 28 and 39 years old. The procedures included liposuction, tummy tucks, and breast augmentations, lifts or reductions.

Stethoscope Public domain image/Darnyi Zsóka
Public domain image/Darnyi Zsóka

“We urge anyone who has received cosmetic surgery in the Dominican Republic and developed a skin infection to seek medical care immediately,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “It is important for people who may have an infection to come forward, seek medical attention or contact the Health Department via 311. Just as important is to remind anyone who seeks elective cosmetic surgery in New York City, other U.S. states or abroad to make sure they choose a doctor and a medical facility that is licensed.”

“This recent group of serious infections due to cosmetic surgery obtained abroad underscores the danger and expense many women subject themselves to in order to pursue unrealistic beauty standards. I urge any person who think they may have an infection from surgery obtained abroad to immediately contact their doctor or call 311 to alert the Health Department. To any person who is considering travel to the Dominican Republic to obtain plastic surgery, I would urge them to reconsider as this can be dangerous and can leave them with no legal recourse in the case of malpractice,” said State Senator Marisol Alcántara.

“In light of reports of bacterial infection resulting from cosmetic surgeries performed in the Dominican Republic, I urge all New Yorkers to be wary of possible symptoms due to infection,” said Congressman Adriano Espaillat (NY-13). “The health of our citizens is paramount; if you have traveled to the Dominican Republic in the past several months for a cosmetic procedure and now experience unusual side effects, please see a doctor for examination immediately and inform them of the nature of your surgery and travel history.”

“Lipotourism can have serious health consequences and is no laughing matter,” said Council Member Salamanca. “If you or someone you know has been affected, please do not hesitate to reach out to the Health Department for assistance.”

Mycobacterium abscessus/chelonae causes surgical wound infections and can lead to abscesses, damaged or dead skin and soft tissue. Pain, redness, swelling and fluid drainage are the most common symptoms. Patients often visited their doctors in the United States multiple times before the diagnosis of Mycobacteria was suspected. The Health Department has issued a health alert urging medical providers and the public to report any suspect cases of skin and soft tissue infections in patients who report traveling to the Dominican Republic for a cosmetic procedure since January of this year. Patients have undergone treatment, including hospitalization, surgical removal of infected, damaged or dead tissue and several-week courses of intravenous antibiotics. To date, no deaths have been identified as part of this cluster.