Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012 | 8:17 p.m.
A 20-year-old Las Vegas woman alleges she is the victim of a botched breast augmentation after a plastic surgeon used an implant that had been used inside another woman.
Heather Martin said Tuesday said she was forced to take extended time off work after the surgery left her with a painful infection.
Martin said she visited Dr. Robert Rhodes, a plastic surgeon whose offices are based in St. George, Utah, but who also consults in Las Vegas, in early December for the $5,000 surgery.
Several weeks later, Martin received an anonymous letter saying that one of her implants had been mistakenly put in another patient, removed, sterilized in an autoclave and implanted in her.
“To get the full truth you may need the state licensing agency or testimony of the people in the operating room,” the tipster wrote.
Martin said her mother called Rhodes and that the doctor admitted he had reused the implant because it was “cost-effective.”
Several messages left for Rhodes at his office Tuesday were not immediately returned.
Martin’s mother, Tammy Bailey, said Rhodes told her that the implant was accidentally put into a patient undergoing surgery the same day as Martin. After realizing that he had put the implant intended for Martin in the wrong patient, Rhodes told Bailey he removed it, sterilized it and then implanted it in Martin, Bailey said.
Martin said she has since developed an infection in the incision on her left breast, but said she can’t be sure it was caused by the recycled implant because she’s not sure which breast the implant was put into.
“I got this done because I wanted to make myself happier and I’m not,” she said. “I feel like I have this other girl in me … It makes me really upset.”
Martin’s attorney, Richard Harris, said he is still investigating the situation and that no lawsuit has been filed against Rhodes. He said Martin has up to a year to bring a medical malpractice suit and that Tuesday’s news conference was meant to raise awareness about a potentially unsafe practice in the plastic surgery industry.
“Before we (bring a lawsuit), we have to know what the damages are. We have to know whether this is a fear of infection case or a blood-borne infection case,” Harris said. Developing these cases takes several months.”
Harris said his initial research has shown reusing implants is not standard procedure for plastic surgeons and that the dangers of reusing medical devices have already been demonstrated in Las Vegas after more than a hundred people contracted hepatitis C several years ago at a local endoscopy clinic that is at the center of several civil and criminal cases.
In the meantime, Martin is consulting with another plastic surgeon to have her first set of implants replaced with a new pair. She’s being tested for blood-borne pathogens like HIV or hepatitis, and will continue to be tested for the next several months.