Florida’s top doctor on Monday issued an emergency order prohibiting a Miami physician from performing liposuction and fat transfer surgeries — a process marketed as a Brazilian butt lift — after one of his patients died in December while undergoing the popular procedure at a storefront clinic on Southwest Eighth Street.
Arnaldo Valls, a family doctor who is not board certified in any specialty, was accused of medical malpractice for his treatment of Kizzy London, a 40-year-old woman from Baton Rouge who underwent surgery with Valls at Jolie Surgery Center, a clinic that has changed names repeatedly after other patient deaths.
Claudia Puentes, manager of Jolie Plastic Surgery, which is affiliated with the surgery center, said the clinic learned on Tuesday of the restriction on Valls’ license. “At this specific time, the doctor will stop performing that specific procedure,” she said, referring to liposuction and fat transfer surgeries.
Puentes said Valls will dispute the health department’s emergency restriction before the Florida Board of Medicine, which regulates physicians. Florida’s surgeon general issued the emergency restriction order.
“He’s still employed here at the office and can still perform multiple procedures,” Puentes said. She said Valls is not restricted from performing breast augmentation and other cosmetic surgeries that do not involve liposuction and fat transfer.
Valls did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment. He carries no malpractice insurance, according to his physician profile maintained by the Florida Department of Health.
A medical expert who reviewed London’s health records for the health department accused Valls of malpractice during his surgery on London in December.
During a Brazilian butt lift, surgeons use a metal rod called a cannula to suction fat through a surgical incision, plunging the instrument in and out of the patient’s body. The suctioned fat is treated and then grafted to the buttocks through surgical incisions.
According to the emergency order, Valls suctioned fat from London’s body and then injected it deep into her buttocks, piercing the gluteal vein and sending fat clots traveling to the lungs, causing immediate cardiac arrest.
The health department’s findings echo the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner’s autopsy report issued in January. The medical examiner’s report noted that London’s heart and lungs contained numerous fat clots throughout the organs and evidence of hemorrhaging around a blood vessel deep in her right buttock, near her sciatic nerve.
Valls issued a written statement in December following London’s death. Valls said London’s heart stopped beating toward the end of the surgery, and that the clinic’s medical staff tried to resuscitate her before calling 911. She was taken to Kendall Regional Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead.
In the statement, Valls said that surgeries carry risks and that he has performed thousands of surgeries with “a clean record.”
But the health department’s medical expert, Christopher Salgado, a board certified plastic surgeon, said in the emergency order that Valls was practicing outside of his expertise when he operated on London. Valls received training in general surgery, the emergency order notes, but not in plastic surgery.
On his résumé, Valls indicates that he attended weekend courses in cosmetic surgery, which Salgado said were insufficient training to ensure patient safety.
“Weekend or even a weeklong training course in liposuction and fat transfer, even if hands on using a cadaver, is not sufficient training to be able to perform these procedures,” Salgado said, according to the emergency order.