In 1953 he began working at a Brazilian hospital. On December 17, 1961, a burning circus tent fell on 2,500 spectators in the Brazilian city of Niterói. Pitanguy treated burn victims for weeks on an emergency basis. He later referred to the event as life changing, as it taught him that for many, physical appearance was critical to living. Pitanguy founded a private clinic called Clínica Ivo Pitanguy in the Botafogo section of Rio de Janeiro where he operated on clients and trained surgeons.
The Pitanguy clinic in Rio also includes an auditorium and library for Pitanguy's lectures and writings for medical students. He died one day after carrying the Olympic flame in his wheelchair, ahead of the Rio 2016 Olympic games.
Pitanguy treated well-known patients, such as the former F1 race driver Niki Lauda, the former prime minister of Italy and media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi as well as the revolutionary Muammar Gaddafi.
- "Brazil plastic surgery maestro Ivo Pitanguy dies at 93". BBC News. August 7, 2016. Retrieved November 30, 2019.
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- Singer, Natasha (August 7, 2016). "Ivo Pitanguy, Plastic Surgeon to the Stars and a Celebrity Himself, Dies at 93". The New York Times. Retrieved November 30, 2019.
- "Lista: famosos que passaram pelo bisturi de Ivo Pitanguy | VEJA.com". VEJA.com (in Portuguese). Retrieved November 30, 2019.
- Schön sein: Was uns füreinander attraktiv macht und wie Aussehen und Ausstrahlung in Einklang kommen (in German). FOCUS Magazin Verlag GmbH. p. 26.
- Cifuentes, Pedro (April 16, 2015). "The man who "rejuvenated" Gaddafi". EL PAÍS. Retrieved November 30, 2019.