Where's the bite in the Vampire breast lift?

Kim Kardashian posted this image on Instagram in March 2013, showing the Vampire facial she received for her reality TV show, in which her own plasma was injected into her skin.
Kim Kardashian posted this image on Instagram in March 2013, showing the Vampire facial she received for her reality TV show, in which her own plasma was injected into her skin.
Posted: February 27, 2016

Female Oscar nominees will leave Sunday's ceremony with a promotional swag bag that includes a certificate good for a free Vampire Breast Lift, a $1,900 procedure that promises to "use your blood to rejuvenate your breasts."

Invented by Charles Runels, the physician behind Kim Kardashian's grisly vampire facial (Google it, if you're feeling strong), the procedure involves taking the patients' own blood, spinning it down to separate the platelets, then injecting the blood into the breast cleavage in the hope that certain human growth factors will tighten up the patient's breast tissues.

At first blush, it might seem like a good, if gory, idea. It's certainly cheaper than the $5,000 to $10,000 price tag for traditional breast implants or surgical breast lifts.

But does it work?

"Highly unlikely," ruled Joseph Serletti, chief of plastic surgery at Penn Medicine. Researchers are investigating the possibilities of using human growth factor in plastic surgery, but the concept is, as yet, unproved.

"We do a lot of fat injections in plastic surgery," Serletti said. "And there are probably some benefits from human growth factors that are yet to be identified. The concept may have some benefits in the future, but for now, no."

Efforts to reach Runel's office were unsuccessful.

Although the Vampire procedure is called a lift, it might be better termed an augmentation, says Texas plastic surgeon Gary Horndeski. Although it could possibly plump up breasts for a short period, he said it wouldn't do much to actually lift the breasts.

Breast lifts are increasing popular, growing twice as fast as breast-implant procedures in the United States, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgery. While breast implants still outpace breast lifts, over 90,000 breast lifts were performed in 2013 by ASPS surgeons. According to the web community Real Self, which tracks patient satisfaction with plastic surgery procedures, about 94 percent of 827 reviewers found their breast lifts "worth it."

The procedures are soaring because people have "less interest in having a foreign body in their bodies," said Serletti.

And implants can prove a slippery slope. They are notorious for requiring second and even third surgeries - even without complications.

"I tell patients that choosing breast implants is buying them a lifetime of surgery, even if they have no complications," said Serletti. "Particularly if they are young, since breasts undergo changes over time."

"They might get pregnant, their breasts might get droopy, and they'll lose the nice shape they had with the implants," he said. "Doing a mastopexy [breast lift] without having an implant is a nice alternative. It's a way of making the breast more youthful without the implant."

Breast lifts, however, are also not a one-time proposition. Since the breast continues to age - but not as quickly as if you had not had a breast lift - at the 10-year mark, "most patients could stand a small revision," Serletti said.

A traditional breast lift involves removing skin from the breast to tighten the envelope that holds the breast tissue, which can be stretched by gravity, pregnancy, or changes in weight. Often, after breast-feeding, breasts that have expanded during pregnancy return to normal size, but the skin has been stretched permanently.

"We also do some repositioning of the breast tissue but it's fundamentally a skin procedure," said Serletti.

There are three basic surgical approaches to a breast lift:

Circumareolar, which leaves a circular scar inside the colored part of the nipple;

Vertical mastopexy, which leaves a scar around the colored part of the nipple along with a vertical scar that goes from the bottom of the nipple to the fold of the breast;

Wise pattern lift, which leaves a scar around the colored part of the nipple, a vertical scar from the bottom of the nipple to the fold beneath the breast, and a transverse scar in the fold.

"The difference between the three is the amount of skin removed, with the circumareolar best for a minimal amount of droopiness and the Wise pattern for the maximum. The most common is the vertical mastopexy," said Serletti.

But perhaps the most frightening thing about the Vampire Breast Lift is that it and procedures like it can be performed in physician's offices without scientific backing, FDA approval or regulatory oversight.

Board-certified surgeons in or associated with hospitals are required to perform operations and procedures that have been approved by an Institutional Review Board (IRB) that monitors for patient safety.

But anyone with a medical license - including healthcare providers who have not trained to be plastic surgeons - are free to do procedures such as the Vampire Breast Lift in their private offices.

It's a situation that concerns Serletti and his board-certified colleagues. Consumers thinking they're getting a great deal could wind up getting very little for their money.

"Any of these things that are minimal incision or no incision-the effect you're going to get is extremely small," he said.

mice30@comcast.net

215-470-2998

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