A mother who had liposuction to remove fat from her swollen legs claims she was left with a gaping hole by a bungling doctor.
Marie Allen, 42, has spent more than £25,000 on skin grafts to treat the wound that was so large it exposed her flesh and muscle – but she is still unable to walk properly.
The former nurse, from North Carolina, originally sought treatment for lipoedema, a condition that causes deposits of fat to form beneath the skin in her legs.
Not wanting to go under the knife, she opted for Vaser liposuction, a non-invasive form that sees fat cells blasted away using ultrasound waves.
But Mrs Allen claims she suffered third degree burns on her left leg that became infected, turned gangrenous and caused her skin to ‘peel off like an onion’.
Marie Allen, 42, had liposuction to remove fat from her swollen legs. She suffers from lipoedema, a condition that causes deposits of fat to form beneath the skin in her legs
The mother was left with a gaping hole by a ‘bungling doctor’ (left) that became infected and turned gangrenous (right)
She claims the hole was caused by burnt skin suffered during Vaser liposuction, a non-invasive form that sees fat cells blasted away using ultrasound saves
Recalling her ordeal, Mrs Allen said: ‘I noticed four days after the procedure, there was small blistering and so I made a return appointment.
‘I’d wanted the surgery as there didn’t seem to be many options to treat lipoedema, and it seemed like a viable solution.
‘The surgeon told me that he had 20 years of experience, and he said I’d be walking again in a week or two.
‘Yet when I went back for that return appointment, I was told I had to wait a week before I could see the surgeon who did mine.
‘But within that week, my skin began to peel off like an onion. In seven days, the skin was dying and turning black.’
Mrs Allen blamed her surgeon for not prescribing her antibiotics or giving her proper aftercare.
Mrs Allen blamed her surgeon for not prescribing her antibiotics to prevent infection, or giving her proper aftercare
Within a week of the procedure, the former nurse’s skin rotted and turned black (shown right)
What is lipoedema?
The condition causes an abnormal build-up of fat cells in the legs, thighs and buttocks, and sometimes in the arm.
It usually affects women, although has occasionally been known to affect men.
Symptoms include enlarged affected body parts that feel soft, bruise easily, ache, and have small broken veins under the skin.
Those with the condition may also then get fluid retention in their legs, which can cause swelling.
Combined, these symptoms may then lead to reduced mobility and low mood.
She has since had to have all the dead skin scraped away, leaving a big crater in her leg.
Mrs Allen added: ‘The skin just kept coming away, until you could see my muscle. But the only thing the first clinic did was wrap it.
‘I wasn’t offered any antibiotics and just told to keep an eye on it. Four days after that I was in ER, receiving antibiotics as the pain had become too much.
‘I saw other surgeons, who looked to wound vac the hole, in the hope it would heal quicker.
‘But before I knew it, I was having home help as I couldn’t change the dressing on my own and it was excruciating pain.
‘When it became apparent the wound was getting no better, I was admitted and placed on a drip.
‘I ended up having to have a complete skin graft but even now, I can’t walk properly on my ankle.’
Mrs Allen claims she had a ‘bad feeling’ about getting the original procedure, and wishes she had ‘listened to her gut’.
She added: ‘I almost cancelled, as I had a bad feeling, especially when the surgeon was unable to show any photos similar to what I needed.
‘On paper, he was good but performing liposuction on lower leg is so risky. Now, I have to wear compression hose all the time and my mobility and self-image has been affected dramatically.
‘Now I’ve got to look for another solution to my condition, with all this added cost on top. It’s been heartbreaking.’
Lipoedema is a common condition, affecting up to 11 per cent of women. It occurs almost exclusively in females.
The cause is unknown, but it is thought to be hereditary and linked to changed in hormones as women age.