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Safety Warnings for Med Spa Procedures Increase

A woman treament going on in hospital

In recent years, the wellness industry, now valued at an astonishing $15 billion, has witnessed a significant surge in the popularity of med spas offering a variety of services, including IV therapy, skin care, and cosmetic procedures. However, this rapid growth has raised serious health concerns due to the increasing reports of risky IV drips and injections at these unregulated facilities.

The situation has become alarming as more individuals, seeking quick and often non-traditional health and beauty treatments, fall victim to the unregulated practices of some med spas. 

A striking example of the dangers lurking in these seemingly benign wellness centers is the story of Bea Amma, a 24-year-old aspiring fitness and lifestyle influencer. In 2021, Amma visited a med spa in California, hoping to boost her energy and reduce body fat through vitamin injections and a fat-melting compound.

However, this pursuit of wellness turned into a nightmare when she developed a severe, drug-resistant infection after being injected over 100 times with a combination of vitamins and fat-melting ingredients. Her experience, which left her scarred and still recovering years later, underscores the risks associated with these treatments, particularly when performed in unsanitary conditions by unlicensed personnel. 

The rise in such incidents has caught the attention of health professionals nationwide. Infectious disease and emergency room doctors report an increase in severe infections and other injuries linked to med spas.

One of the most concerning aspects is the use of improperly sterilized equipment, leading to infections from aggressive bacteria like Mycobacterium abscessus, commonly found in water, soil, and dust. These bacteria can cause serious health complications, especially when associated with cosmetic procedures involving injections. 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued warnings about the use of unauthorized shots, often marketed for fat dissolution, at med spas across the country. These unapproved treatments, sold under various names like Aqualyx, Lipodissolve, Lipo Lab, and Kabelline, have led to severe infections and skin deformities. The FDA emphasizes that the only approved product for fat reduction is Kybella, used specifically for treating double chins. 

The lack of federal health regulations and standard operating procedures for med spas exacerbates the problem. Each state has its own set of rules, but enforcement is often lax. The American Med Spa Association, led by Alex Thiersch, is working to provide legal and business resources to about 4,000 med spas across the U.S. to ensure they operate according to state laws. However, the absence of a unified regulatory framework allows some spas to continue unauthorized procedures and employ unlicensed workers, posing significant risks to public health. 

A tragic incident highlighting these risks involved Jenifer Cleveland, a 47-year-old woman who died following an IV infusion at a med spa in Texas. The Texas Medical Board’s investigation revealed that she was given a potent mix of electrolytes typically used in hospitals, further emphasizing the dangers of unregulated practices in these establishments. 

In light of these developments, experts urge consumers to exercise caution when seeking treatments at med spas. It is crucial to inquire about the spa’s ownership, the credentials of the staff, and the presence of licensed medical practitioners. The growing incidents at med spas not only reflect the risks associated with the wellness industry but also highlight the urgent need for better regulation and consumer awareness to ensure safety and prevent further tragedies. 

Journal Reference  

Warnings grow about risky IV drips and injections at unregulated med spas. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/warnings-grow-risky-iv-drips-injections-unregulated-med-spas-rcna131495 

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