A Miami plastic surgeon who advertises on TikTok and specializes in transgender operations has been accused by multiple double mastectomy patients of leaving them with painful and, in some cases, even life-threatening complications.
Dr. Sidhbh Gallagher, who earned the moniker “TikTok Surgeon” for her advertisements on the platform, came under fire last month after an obese former patient’s claims against her went viral on multiple social media platforms. A Daily Wire investigation found five more former Gallagher patients who range from overweight to “super morbid obese” who all claimed to have suffered similar complications from chest surgery.
Medical professionals who spoke to The Daily Wire on condition of anonymity were alarmed to learn of a pattern of alleged complications among Gallagher’s obese patients and drew comparisons between her Miami-based practice and other forms of “plastic surgery tourism” for which the South Florida city has become infamous.
Rylan, a biological female who flew to Miami from Ohio in October to undergo a double mastectomy surgery by Gallagher, said the doctor’s willingness to operate on patients regardless of their BMI (body mass index), a clinical measure for body-fat percentage or distribution, guided the decision.
Three weeks after the surgery, Rylan’s wounds reopened, became infected, and required an emergency room visit. Rylan alleges that Gallagher disputed that the wounds were infected or that hospital treatment was required. Rylan ended up having over six inches of necrotic tissue removed, and said the experience “almost cost me my life.”
After Rylan’s story went viral, the transgender community turned on Gallagher, who had previously been seen as an ally. In a private, 32,000-member Facebook group for “top surgery” patients, discussion of Rylan’s story prompted other former patients of Gallagher to come forward with graphic photos and descriptions of their alleged complications from surgery.
At least five other former patients of Gallagher, all overweight, obese, or morbidly obese, also said they needed hospitalization, urgent care, or antibiotic treatment after their wounds reopened and became infected.
Plastic surgeons typically won’t perform elective surgeries on obese people when their weight heightens the risk of dangerous complications. High BMI is associated with increased surgical risk, including higher incidences of surgical site infections and poor wound healing. However, Gallagher will operate on patients of any weight, and her own published research shows that approximately 54% of her patients are obese.
“In an effort to be as inclusive as possible we do not have an absolute cutoff BMI requirement for patients who are interested in undergoing top surgery,” a section of her website dedicated to “High Body Mass Index Patients” states.
Studies indicate that biological women who identify as transgender are often classified as obese. One study found that more than a quarter of trans-identifying adults seeking “gender affirming” surgery were obese and considered ineligible due to high BMI. Another recent study found that 39% of trans-identifying females seeking testosterone treatment were obese, and that figure increased to 42-52% after treatment began.
The Daily Wire’s investigation found that many of Gallagher’s former top surgery patients flew to Miami from out of state and even out of the country because they had difficulty finding local surgeons willing to operate on them due to their weight.
The transgender community has devoted lists, threads, and other resources like the “TransBMI” website that are dedicated to helping obese individuals find “gender affirming” surgeons who will operate on any weight. Attitudes in the “top surgery” Facebook group are influenced by the “fat acceptance” social justice movement.
While some former patients of Gallagher – usually ones in the normal to overweight BMI range – reported no complications from their surgeries, others who were in the overweight to super-morbidly obese range had much different experiences.
One former patient from Oregon with a BMI of 55.8 (classified as “super morbid obesity”) sought out Gallagher for a double mastectomy in April after a local surgeon insisted on a weight reduction of 25 pounds.
“Don’t get me started on how awfully antiquated BMI is,” the patient wrote at the time on the Facebook group’s page. Others echoed her sentiments, with comments such as “BMI is fake science” and “BMI is outdated and inaccurate.”
Due to the high BMI, Gallagher performed the surgery at Coral Gables Hospital, where the patient could be monitored overnight, instead of at an outpatient surgical center. The patient flew home five days after surgery after one in-person follow-up visit with Gallagher.
A day after returning home to Oregon, the patient described finding “a large blowhole” under the left arm that was “oozing blood.” “Blowhole” is Gallagher’s own term for surgical incisions that reopen.
When the patient contacted Gallagher, the doctor allegedly advised to “let it drain and trust the process.” Instead of going to the hospital, the patient dressed the wounds with “maxi pads.”
A month after surgery, the patient reported noticing “painful irritation” and “cellulitis” that became too painful to ignore.
“So I went to Kaiser Permanente ER with a 103.4 degree fever,” the patient wrote to the Facebook group, where she shared graphic photos of large open wounds, to warn others of the risks of complications from chest surgery. “Lab tests confirmed that I had a staph infection.”
After a CT scan confirmed a large fluid abscess, the patient underwent an emergency-room operation to drain it. Postoperative treatment included seeing a wound-care specialist four times a week for eight weeks.
Despite the medical ordeal, the transgender patient posted plans to get a hysterectomy next.
An overweight Gallagher patient from Oklahoma claimed to have developed an infection 3-4 weeks after undergoing a double mastectomy on Valentine’s day 2022. In the Facebook group’s page, the patient described getting the runaround from Gallagher.
“I developed an infection in three spots and pushed hard for antibiotics,” the Oklahoma patient said. “She wasn’t very communicative with me. I blew up her phone and her office phone to get a response.”
“She kept telling me to put over-the-counter antibiotic ointment on it and wouldn’t prescribe me antibiotics until it was spreading and open and then she prescribed me antibiotics in pill form. [I] took all of them, it did nothing,” she added.
Another obese former patient of Gallagher from Illinois described similar problems.
“I’m a bigger person who had top surgery with her about 9 weeks ago,” the patient said. “I had several open, oozing, and red spots that were painful. She told me it was normal.”
A patient from California whose chest surgery was performed by Gallagher in the summer reported being “booted out pretty quickly” following surgery. Two weeks later, the patient’s chest felt like it was “on fire,” according to a Facebook post accompanied by a photo of a swollen red gash on one side. By week four, the patient was more swollen and in pain.
“I sent the pic along with a spot on my incision that looked infected and she said it looks normal,” wrote the California patient, who the next day was admitted to an emergency room with a fever of 102.
“I was hospitalized for 2 days,” the patient added. “I didn’t bother letting them know what was up and they never bothered to check on me.”
Yet another patient of Gallager, a biological woman who weighed 250 pounds, described experiencing complications one week after undergoing a double mastectomy in 2017, when Gallagher practiced in Indianapolis.
“I’m a week post op and the infection I got from surgery has been getting steadily worse despite antibiotics to the point that now my incision is open and cannot be reclosed,” the patient wrote.
“Because my surgeon is almost entirely hands off post-op I went to a random nurse practitioner in their office to get it packed with gauze but… it’s just not healing right,” the patient added.
In one of her published research papers, Gallagher acknowledges that two of her patients have experienced pneumothorax complications, an extremely rare injury involving a punctured lung due to surgical error.
Gallagher has also been publicly accused of botching vaginoplasties, genital surgeries performed on biological males. A member of the Facebook “top surgery” group claimed to know of two vaginoplasty patients of Gallagher’s who were allegedly left with “basically non-functioning genitals, constant pain and very awful urinary tract issues.” Numerous former patients have taken to Reddit and other outlets to voice their complaints.
Gallagher did not respond to repeated requests for comment from The Daily Wire. But in an October interview with The New York Times, Gallagher said she performs approximately 480 chest surgeries a year. According to the Aesthetic Society, a professional group of board-certified plastic surgeons, the average plastic surgeon performed 320 surgical procedures of various types in 2021.
Gallagher performs chest surgeries on minors, provided they have the consent of their parents. According to her New York Times interview, she removes the breasts of one to two minors as young as 13 per month.
Gallagher told the newspaper that most of her patients find her through TikTok. Her questionable advertising practices to minors and young adults on the platform have raised concerns among five organizations that filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission in October, alleging that Gallagher had engaged in deceptive marketing to minors.
She uses an informed consent model, meaning a letter of recommendation from a mental health professional is not required unless they are a minor. Gallagher has also opted out of medical malpractice insurance, which means that if complications do occur, it could be more difficult for a plaintiff to find a law firm to sue her.
According to her website, Gallagher earned her medical degree from University College in Dublin. She was an assistant professor of surgery at the Indiana University School of Medicine in 2015 and established her private practice in Miami in 2020.
Gallagher advertises “Masculoplasty,” a trademark she registered, as a “drain free technique” that has been “proven safe in higher body mass index patients.” Drains are used in mastectomies to help reduce post-op fluid buildup that can lead to infection. Gallagher’s claims about the technique appeal to patients coming from out of town, as they would not require follow up appointments to remove the drain.
But it’s the call to overweight patients that sets Gallagher apart from other plastic surgeons who specialize in transgender surgeries.
“In general I do not have a cut off for BMI for top surgery and we published on this and found we could do it safely,” Gallagher said in a TikTok video that showed a screenshot from a study she authored in 2020.
Although her own study appeared to acknowledge that morbidly obese and super obese patients faced significant risk of complications, it concluded that obese patients are not at significantly greater risk than a cohort that included both “normal” and “overweight” patients.
Despite all the criticism of Gallagher on social media, the Florida State Medical Board has yet to receive an official complaint about her, a necessary predicate to launching a formal investigation. An official with the board told The Daily Wire a complainant can remain anonymous, as long as they provide contact information and cooperate with the investigation.