A Huntersville cosmetic surgery center is among those that closed this week as Lifestyle Lift, a nationwide chain, considers filing for bankruptcy.
The company, which advertises the Lifestyle Lift as a less-invasive face-lift that requires only local anesthesia and a shorter recovery time, abruptly closed 40 of its locations across the country, the Wall Street Journal reported this week.
Dr. Gustavo Diaz, who performed Lifestyle Lifts at the Huntersville office, was reprimanded in December by the North Carolina Medical Board, which alleged he gave insufficient care to several patients, including one who died the day after receiving a face-lift. He retains an active license.
A WBTV reporter who visited the Huntersville office this week found the doors locked. A receptionist who answered the phone told the Observer she could not comment and referred questions to the corporate office in Michigan.
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In recent years, Dr. Stephan Finical of Charlotte Plastic Surgery said he has seen six to 12 patients a year who were unhappy with the results from Lifestyle Lift. It “wasn’t necessarily that they were doing something wrong,” Finical said, but expectations were too high.
“What they were getting was a quick mini-lift and it didn’t solve the problem, or it didn’t last,” he said. “It wasn’t like it was fraught with a lot of complications. … People weren’t satisfied with the result.”
Medical board action
The state medical board began investigating Diaz’s practice in 2011 after it received information from the Better Business Bureau about complaints from the doctor’s Lifestyle Lift patients. During its investigation, the board also learned Diaz had prescribed a weight-loss drug to a family member without documenting the treatment.
In 2013, the board formally charged Diaz with “unprofessional conduct” in connection with sedating two patients without sufficient monitoring and for performing procedures that were “not appropriate for addressing the issues for which (the two patients) sought care,” board documents said.
While those allegations were pending, the board received several more complaints, including one from the family of a patient who died the day after Diaz performed a face-lift in October 2009. A medical expert told the board Diaz had not completely examined the patient’s heart and lungs or reviewed the patient’s medical history before surgery, failed to monitor the patient during surgery or check vital signs prior to surgery, according to board documents.
Diaz avoided a public hearing on the charges by signing a consent order in December. As part of that order, the medical board reprimanded Diaz for prescribing medicine to the family member and noted that Diaz had improved his sedation and monitoring practices. The board, which had criticized Diaz for not having hospital privileges in recent years, said he now has permission to practice at Novant Health Huntersville Medical Center.
Future ‘is uncertain’
The Wall Street Journal said Dr. David Kent, who founded Lifestyle Lift in 2001, sent letters to employees this week explaining the company “has made the decision to temporarily cease operations until further notice.” The letter told employees not to report to work “until further notice unless otherwise instructed” and also said the company’s future “is uncertain,” the Journal reported.
Lifestyle Lift has run into trouble over the years with state attorneys general offices who have questioned the company’s advertising practices, the Journal reported.
In 2009, then-New York State Attorney Andrew Cuomo announced that Lifestyle Lift had agreed to pay $300,000 in penalties to settle claims that its employees published fake, positive consumer reviews on the Internet, the Journal reported. In 2013, Lifestyle Lift agreed to a settlement with Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi to change its marketing practices, including no longer referring to its services as a “revolutionary procedure,” the Journal reported.