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Md. officials shut down cosmetic surgery center

Wednesday - 9/19/2012, 7:05pm  ET

By ERIC TUCKER
Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Maryland health officials have closed a cosmetic surgery center after three patients who had liposuction developed severe infections, including one who subsequently died.

The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene on Wednesday ordered the closure of Monarch Med Spa in Timonium after the procedures, which took place from mid-August to mid-September. The three patients contracted severe invasive Group A Streptococcus, or GAS, infections. Though those infections are generally considered mild, they can be fatal in cases in which the bacteria, often found in the throat or on the skin, infects the lungs or blood.

The closure came a day after health officials visited the Baltimore County location and found breaches in "standard inspection control practices," according to a written order mandating the shutdown. The inspection control unit at the University of Maryland Medical System reported Monday that three patients seen for procedures at Monarch Med Spa within the last six weeks had developed the infections.

Symptoms of the infections include fever or influenza-like syndrome; redness at a wound site; abrupt onset of generalized or localized severe pain and swelling, often rapidly increasing; and progressive dizziness, weakness and confusion. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says between 9,000 and 11,500 cases of invasive GAS disease occur annually in the United States, and that there are between 1,000 and 1,800 deaths per year. The bacteria are often spread through direct contact with the mucus of an infected person and through contact with infected skin wounds and sores.

The state does not license cosmetic surgery centers, but will seek public comment on "potential approaches to oversight of these facilities," the health department said in a statement. It was not immediately clear which other states license the centers.

Monarch Med Spa said in a statement that it was concerned for the well-being of all its patients and that it was cooperating with health authorities. The company said it has been in business for eight years and that its licensed health professionals have successfully "performed thousands of complication-free surgical procedures." The company also has locations in Pennsylvania _ in Philadelphia, Harrisburg and King of Prussia _ and in Greenville, Del., according to its website.

"The suspected infections are a new development and their possible origins are being closely and carefully investigated," the company's statement said.

Monique Lyle, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore County health department, said it was too soon to say whether the investigation might result in any criminal charges.

"I don't think any criminal charges are being looked at right now. We're looking at the public safety portion of it," she said in an interview.

DHMN officials say anyone who had a procedure at Monarch Med Spa recently and is worried about infection should contact his or her doctor.


(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)