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Health Care Complaints Commission Building Picture

16 Apr 2018

Public Warning - Unsafe Practices involving subdermal implants inserted for “extreme” body modification purposes

The Health Care Complaints Commission has issued a public warning under s94A of the Health Care Complaints Act 1993 regarding unsafe practices involving subdermal implants inserted for “extreme” body modification purposes.

The Commission is concerned about complaints regarding surgical procedures involving the insertion of subdermal implants for these purposes and the risks to the health and safety of consumers undergoing these procedures.

Subdermal implants used for “extreme” body modification purposes come in a variety of forms including horns, snowflakes, skulls, crowns or other objects and are generally made from silicone. Unlike more traditional body art or “body modification” procedures, such as tattooing and piercing, the insertion of subdermal implants involves surgery. These procedures involve incisions being made with a scalpel through the skin and subcutaneous tissue, instruments being used to open the pocket in which the implant will be inserted and suturing of the incision site.

The issues raised in the complaints received include:

  • Whether the person(s) carrying out these procedures are suitably trained and qualified to be providing these services
  • Whether these services are being carried out in a sterile and appropriately equipped setting
  • Whether the services are being provided in a safe and ethical manner
  • Whether consumers receiving these services are receiving appropriate follow up care
  • Whether scheduled medications are being used for the purpose of the procedures in breach of the Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Act 1966, and
  • Whether consumers are being urged to inform their treating medical practitioner of the services they are receiving

As such, these procedures risk serious health complications, which include infection and nerve damage. Other complications include allergic reactions to the materials used and/or the body rejecting the implant itself.

The Commission is investigating these complaints and inquiries are presently ongoing.

The Commission strongly urges consumers seeking the insertion of subdermal implants for body modification purposes to be vigilant in their research prior to proceeding. In all cases the following factors should be considered by health consumers before committing to the procedure:

  1. Is the procedure being performed by a practitioner who is appropriately qualified, experienced and accredited?
  2. Is the facility appropriately registered, infection controlled and equipped?
  3. Are the implants safe?
  4. Have you sought medical advice?
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