One of the fastest growing procedures within the Botox market is calf Botox. While Botox has become best known for cosmetic purposes to iron out wrinkles, it is also used by the NHS to treat cerebral palsy, facial tics and writer’s cramp.
Calf Botox involves the toxin being injected into the calf muscle, paralysing certain nerves and preventing the muscle from contracting fully. This forces the relaxation of muscle contours and slims the appearance of the leg. For those with a genetic predisposition to large calf muscles, the treatment can reduce the circumference of each calf by up to two centimetres for up to six months. As the procedure is only designed to affect a small proportion of the outer muscle fibres, patients can still walk normally after treatment which can cost up to £1,450 and is described as “non-surgical” and “non-invasive”.
Although a high dose of Botox is needed to have an effect – usually more than ten times what would be used on the face (20 units versus 250 units) - experts have estimated that it would take at least 3,000 units to kill a human being so the treatment should be safe. However, some doctors and surgeons are worried about the implications of using Botox in large quantities. Naveen Cavale, a cosmetic surgeon and member of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, believes that calf Botox is “foolhardy and potentially dangerous…By preventing muscles from contracting properly, Botox weakens them and causes muscle wastage…we use our calf muscles every time we take a step; why would you want to weaken something that helps you walk, for the sake of your appearance?” Mr Cavale also says that the procedure could prove fatal as “…calf muscles pump blood up the legs towards the heart. If you weaken that pump mechanism, it could put you at risk of blood clots, and could lead to a clot travelling to the lungs.”
Amy Milner, an associate within the clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches, specialising in cosmetic claims, says: “As the potential risks and side effects of this procedure can be devastating, it is both surprising and worrying that some women who are desperate for slimmer calves consider it worth the risk. The rise in popularity of these types of procedures has led to an increase in the number of clinical negligence claims following serious side effects that we are investigating. Non-surgical cosmetic treatments are not regulated and, if they are not carried out correctly, they can have significant negative impacts on people’s lives.
“When a cosmetic surgeon is raising serious concerns about a procedure, people should consider whether the risk is actually worth it. We recommend that anyone wanting to undergo non-surgical treatment should seek a medically trained surgeon, and carry out their own research into the treatments and their potential side effects. When procedures that have been carried out by some by someone who is not medically qualified, a patient may have little recourse”.