AirSculpt: Former Employees Raise Concerns Over Patient Safety and Sterilization Practices That Risk Patient Infection; Negative Reviews Were Sanitized and Potentially Improper Conduct was Sanctioned to Generate Positive Reviews, Risking FTC Scrutiny  

Published on Jan 16, 2024

Former employees of AirSculpt (AIRS), a national chain of body-contouring liposuction clinics, are raising concerns about lax standards, including poor sterilization processes, that are harming patients.

Knowledge of these harms, which include infections and at least one patient death, are often suppressed by the company in order to maintain a positive public image, the employees said.

“There are tons of instances of them not reporting infections,” a former nurse at an AirSculpt clinic said, “one doctor was having several BBL [Brazilian Butt Lift] infections per month. If you have an infection within 7-10 days of a procedure, it’s likely from that procedure. But none of them were reported to the state board of health.”

“If a patient had a complaint, we would offer them a full refund,” a former employee who worked in sales and patient relations said, “But they would have to sign a non-disparagement agreement and take down any negative reviews to get their money. It could often be well over $10,000, so of course they are going to sign.”

Any negative reviews would also be dwarfed by the number of positive reviews, some of which may have been fictitious.

Former employees told The Capitol Forum that the company frequently held contests in which certain staff would get compensated for the number of positive reviews they could generate. These incentives, the employees said, encouraged employees to write their own reviews and get friends and family who may not have had procedures to submit reviews.

The Capitol Forum spoke with one former employee who confirmed they had submitted multiple positive online reviews for two different AirSculpt clinics.

Another former employee said the company offered customers goodie bags in exchange for writing positive reviews. The goodie bags were typically only reserved for patients who spent over a certain amount of money.

The review practices could draw the scrutiny of the Federal Trade Commission, which last year announced a proposed rule banning fake reviews and testimonials.  The proposed rule would prohibit obtaining fake consumer reviews and testimonials as well as buying positive reviews.

The FTC will hold an informal hearing on its proposed rule on February 13.

In addition to FTC scrutiny, the company’s practices put patients at risk. Former employees blamed a push to book as many procedures as possible as contributing to lax sterilization procedures, with tools and devices not properly sterilized or disposed of between patients.

For example, several former employees said that a single-use mesh sleeve for the liposuction handpiece was reused multiple times at their respective clinics. The sleeve in question is produced by the company CellMyx, which specifically notes on its website that the sleeve is “SINGLE USE ONLY.”

“Each sleeve was used among hundreds of patients for years. It is inexcusable not to throw it away after each procedure,” a former employee said. “Keep in mind that this disposable costs $25 and the patient is charged an average of $10,000.”

“Most things that are reused are put into the autoclave to sterilize them, but this sleeve would melt in the autoclave, so at my clinic, we would just wipe it down and leave it on the table for the next patient,” the former nurse said.

According to the employees, the mesh composition of the sleeve meant that patient blood and other fluids would easily become trapped in the sleeve’s foam.

The company appears to have implemented changes to this policy towards the end of last year, though still allowing the sleeves to be reused for AirSculpt procedures and not fat transfers, according to a company communication reviewed by The Capitol Forum. It is not known whether the company subsequently banned the reuse of the sleeves for AirSculpt procedures as well.

Former employees also pointed to other practices that increased the risk of infections, including inconsistent use of medical gloves by doctors during procedures and constant flows of staff in and out of operating rooms during procedures, something that several online reviews also cite.

According to one review on Yelp, “3+ months ago I had the power BBL done by Dr. Perkins. During the procedure he was completely unprofessional and allowing staff in and out of the room breaking sterile procedures/policies.”

“One week post-op I was admitted to a Boston hospital with an infection that began at my injection site and had gone into my blood stream. Infectious disease doctors attempted to get a hold of Dr. Perkins several times but we’re unable to. After spending a week in the hospital with a systemic infection and 3 months post op I see almost NO positive result.”

AirSculpt did not respond to a request for comment for this article.