Serious complications reported from anti-perspiration surgery
Surgery involving the clamping of sympathetic nerve trunks to prevent excessive perspiration and blushing appears to be of questionable value.
Complications have been reported, ranging from phantom perspiration to blood clots in the brain.
The Finnish Office for Health Care Technology Assessment (FinOHTA), which is part of the National Research and Development Centre for Welfare and Health (STAKES) recently conducted a survey on the various effects of hyperhidrosis surgery at the request of the Finnish Medical Association.
Finnish surgeon Timo Telaranta has performed about 2,000 such operations at private clinics in Helsinki and Oulu in the past ten years.
The National Authority for Medicolegal Affairs has issued three warnings to Telaranta and the Provincial Government of Southern Finland has issued one.
There are currently no complaints pending against Telaranta, and the authority has not considered restricting his rights to practice medicine.
The Finnish Patient Insurance Centre has processed 20 complaints concerning Telaranta’s Privatex clinic. The complaints resulted in 14 decisions to pay compensation. All except two of the surgeries were conducted by Telaranta himself.
Telaranta says that he treats patients suffering from difficult social anxiety with endoscopic surgery in which an incision is made into the upper part of the chest cavity, and the sympathetic nerve trunk is severed or clamped.
The price of an operation ranges between EUR 4,500 and EUR 5,900, depending on the difficulty of the procedure. Patients are not eligible for compensation from public health funds.
Most patients are satisfied with the treatment. However, FinOHTA found that there were many negative side-effects, some of which were very serious.
With most patients, heavy perspiration of the palms has moved to other parts of the body, below the breasts. As many as 15% of those who have undergone the surgery said that the surge in body perspiration forces them to change underwear several times a day.
Other side-effects have included drying of the skin on the face and hands, as well as perspiration triggered by eating spicy food. There are also reports of phantom perspiration - the feeling of perspiration when none takes place - as well as a weakened tolerance for cold.
More serious effects include collapsing of a lung, breathing difficulties, and blood clots in the brain. Some patients got a hanging eyelid, while others reported a sudden raspiness of their voice.
One of Dr. Telaranta’s patients who had made a complaint began to experience strong reactions of anxiety which did not go away even after corrective surgery. Later the patient committed suicide.
Dr. Telaranta himself says that the side-effects are regrettable. However, he says that he has developed a procedure which does not cause any such side effects.
He also says that it is important to examine patients carefully, and to perform surgery only on those who are suited for the procedure.
Many doctors have serious reservations about the idea of treating complaints such as excessive perspiration, blushing, and performance anxiety by severing people’s nerves.