Outbreak of Mycobacterium abscessus wound infections among “lipotourists” from the United States who underwent abdominoplasty in the Dominican Republic.
Department of Medicine, New York-Presbyterian Hospital-Columbia University Medical Center, New York, New York, USA.
Some US residents travel abroad to undergo cosmetic plastic surgery Dominican Republic for fat removal, a practice referred to as “lipotourism.” Mycobacterium abscessus can cause postsurgical wound infection.
US residents who developed M. abscessus wound infection after undergoing cosmetic surgery in the Dominican Republic in 2003 and 2004 were identified using the Emerging Infections Network listserv.
Twenty returning US travelers with M. abscessus infection were detected after plastic surgery Dominican Republic. Eight patients had matching isolates, as determined by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis and repetitive element polymerase chain reaction. All 8 patients, who had previously been healthy Hispanic women, underwent abdominoplasties at the same clinic in the Dominican Republic. Symptoms first developed 2-18 weeks after the procedure (median interval, 7 weeks). Only 2 of the 8 patients received a correct diagnosis at the initial presentation. Most patients presented with painful, erythematous, draining subcutaneous abdominal nodules. Seven patients underwent drainage procedures. Six patients received a combination of antibiotics that included a macrolide plus cefoxitin, imipenem, amikacin, and/or linezolid; 2 received clarithromycin monotherapy. All patients but 1 were cured after a median of 9 months of therapy (range, 2-12 months). Because of a lack of access to the surgical clinic, the cause of the outbreak of infection was not identified. The patients who were infected with nonmatching isolates underwent surgeries in different facilities for plastic surgery Dominican Republic but otherwise had demographic characteristics and clinical presentations similar to those of the 8 patients infected with matching isolates.
This case series of M. abscessus infection in US “lipotourists” highlights the risks of traveling abroad for surgery and the potential role of the Internet in identifying and investigating outbreaks.