Women suffer complications from stem cell injections

August 27, 2020 - 11:00
The two patients were diagnosed as suffering from complications because the ingredients in the products injected into their body caused reactions on their skin.
A woman suffers from allergic reactions after being injected with stem cells. — Photo courtesy of HCM City Hospital of Dermato Venereology

HCM CITY — N.T.H, 45, of District 2, HCM City was recently taken to HCM City Hospital of Dermato Venereology with bruises and swelling of her face due to stem cell injection in a local beauty salon.

The woman, who wants to remain anonymous, said two days before being taken to the hospital, she went to a beauty salon near her house for skincare.

“A beauty salon worker advised me to get an injection of stem cells to rejuvenate my skin,” she said.

One day after the injection, her face became swollen and painful, she added.

A week ago, the hospital received another 40-year-old woman with a lot of red papules on her face. The woman also said that she had been injected with stem cells in a beauty salon.

Both establishments have been inspected by the city's health department.

Trần Nguyên Ánh Tú, deputy head of the hospital’s Department of Aesthetic Dermatology, said each month, the hospital received 5-7 patients suffering from side effects and complications after they used stem cells via injection, application and drinking.  

She said the products beauty salons often used to inject for clients were only labelled stem cells and did not contain any living stem cells.

The two patients were diagnosed as suffering from complications because the ingredients in the products injected into their body caused reactions on their skin.

Tú said many countries had applied the stem cell technology in the treatment of psoriasis, systemic sclerosis and skin cancer. Stem cells have also been studied for the treatment of skin ageing and scar repair, she said.

The application of stem cells in dermatology and skincare was still being researched to determine the effectiveness and safety of stem cell treatments, she said.

However, there are many stem cell products on the market now, with prices ranging from several hundred thousands of đồng to several hundred millions of đồng, she added.

Tú said stem cell extraction required complicated techniques, including centrifugation, erythrocyte and collagen lysis, washing and stromal vascular fraction.

The culture of stem cells also demanded strict standards such as sterility and being stored at temperatures from minus 80 degrees Celsius, she said.

“Therefore, it is impossible to sell a stem cell product with the price of only several hundred thousands of đồng,” she said.

Even using actual stem cells can be risky as the extraction of stem cells with the same tissue type but originating from different people might cause allergic reactions, she said.

The risk of allergic reactions could also come from ingredients and compounds in the culture process.

When stem cells were injected into the body, their growth in the body cannot be completely controlled, leading to the appearance of secondary tumours, so stem cell technology was not 100 per cent safe as advertised, Tú said.

It is costly and time-consuming to treat the complications and in many cases, a complete recovery is not possible.

Tú advised women to consult experts in reputable and licensed health facilities before deciding to use beauty products and services.

Nguyễn Thanh Vân, deputy chairman of HCM City’s Plastic Surgery Association, said the city currently had four types of beauty services: spas, beauty salons, plastic surgery clinics and plastic surgery hospitals.

Vân said spas and beauty salons were only allowed to do skincare services, not to perform invasive procedures such as injecting or putting anything into the body, he said. 

The spas can be shut down for offering such services and fined VNĐ50-70 million (US$2,100-3,000). 

A plastic surgery clinic was only permitted to do services in the facial area by using local anaesthesia, not general anaesthesia, he said.

A plastic surgery hospital or a plastic surgery department in a general hospital can conduct cosmetic surgery using general anaesthesia. — VNS