A 59-year-old woman died Monday of a rare infection after liposuction surgery, and two other patients have also contracted infections, prompting Maryland health officials Wednesday to shut down the cosmetic surgery center where each was treated.
Monarch Medspa officials are cooperating as Maryland and Baltimore County health officials investigate the source of the infections, which involve the same bacteria that causes strep throat. But the bacteria can be significantly more dangerous when infecting other parts of the body, sometimes causing shock, organ failure and even death.
In an order closing the center, state health officials said inspectors at the facility Tuesday observed "probable deviations from standard infection control practices."
The cluster of infections has prompted the state health department to consider whether it should increase oversight of cosmetic surgery centers. While doctors and nurses working in the centers must be board-certified, the centers themselves are not required to be licensed.
Health officials caution other patients who have visited the center in the past month to look out for symptoms such as fever, redness at a wound site, abrupt onset of pain, and swelling, dizziness, weakness and confusion.
A family member of the woman who died said she had visited the center for liposuction on or about Sept. 11. She returned the next day reporting extensive bleeding and was eventually sent home. By Thursday night, she was unable to keep her balance and called an ambulance. The family member would not name the patient and spoke on condition of anonymity because the woman did not want others to know she was undergoing liposuction.
She was taken to Northwest Hospital Center, where she went into cardiac arrest but was revived, and was then sent to University of Maryland Medical Center, where she died after medical staff were unable to stop the infection, the family member said.
Health officials would not provide any details about the identity of any of the patients who contracted infections, citing medical privacy laws. The other two patients were not hospitalized as of Wednesday, Baltimore County health department spokeswoman Monique Lyle said.
Monarch has been in business for eight years and operates five locations in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Delaware. The medspa performs all types of cosmetic surgeries, such as face lifts and breast augmentation, as well as Botox, laser hair removal and tattoo removal. The company has performed thousands of procedures safely over the years, officials said in a statement.
"Monarch's primary concern is for the safety and well-being of all of our patients, and we extend our deepest sympathy to deceased patient's family," the statement said. "The suspected infections are a new development and their possible origins are being closely and carefully investigated."