Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Article on ETS published in The Press, Christchurch's daily paper

A shorter (but still substantial) version of the article on ETS surgery that was published in Australia (see details in the previous blog dated April 2, 2012) was recently published in the New Zealand mainstream print media. It appeared in the Saturday April 7 weekend edition of The Press in the magazine supplement called 'Your Weekend'.

The NZ version of the article included some brief comment, in a separate section at the end of the article, from NZ ETS surgeon David Ferrar (based in Hamilton).

The article does not appear to have been published online so I will scan it at some stage and link to it here.

In the mean time, here is a copy of the mini interview with Hamilton-based ETS surgeon David Ferrar that appeared in The Press' version of John Van Tiggelen's article.

Sugrery may do more than spare blushes
By Beck Eleven

Hamilton surgeon Mr David Ferrar says there are fewer than 20 vascular surgeons in New Zealand and of those, only about six perform endoscopic throacic sympathectiomies.

The vast majority relate to severe sweating conditions and he would perform about 10 of these surgeries a year. However, people who come to Ferrar solely for problem blushing are rare. In the past five or six years, he's seen ten blushers, with six choosing to go through with the operation after being advised of potential side-effects.

"Most people would be sweating so profusely from their hands they find it hard to use a keyboard or hold a piece of paper. The blushing is part of the procedure, but the best results are for people who sweat as well."

He knows the procedure is controversial because of the unpredicatability of side-effects.

"If blushing is the only problem, you can expect to come away with very, very dry hands. Also, 30 to 40 percent of people get compensatory sweating on the front or back of their trunk.

"So if you sweat profusely from your hands and that's been cured, the patient doesn't mind too much if their hands are dry and they sweat a bit more on their trunk. However, if blushing is the only problem, people are more likely to complain."

People who consult Ferrar about severe blushing are usually at the end of the line, having already exhausted other methods such as therapy.

"They worry about things like public speaking or embarrassment in the office.

"Imagine you're a lawyer and the first thing you do when you meet a client is shake their hand but you are sweating and going bright red. You can see why that would be upsetting."

Ferrar believes much of the controversy lies in surgeons, mainly in the United States, who perform the surgery on anyone who asks for it, rather than the severe end of the spectrum.

"In America, there are so many that have been operated on when it hasn't been necessary, or the surgeon has given the patient false expectations, that there are support groups for people who've had complications or adverse effects. The people that come to me are almost self-selecting; they've tried everything else."

The youngest patient he has performed an endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy on was 8-years-old, with most being in puberty (when the condition tends to arise). Or they are in their 20s when they are beginning relationships and jobs.

He sasys older people tend to have lived with the condition and grown used to it.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Article about ETS surgery published in Sydney Morning Herald's 'Good Weekend' magazine

The article, published on March 10 2012, was written by journalist John Van Tiggelen and looks at the social and professional impacts of facial blushing, why people would seek surgery for this misunderstood condition, and some of the controversy around the surgery offered for facial blushing (and hyperhidrosis) - ETS.

Here is a link to the full text and scans of the article that were shared by an Australian ETS patient on the US-based support forum for those living with adverse side effects of ETS:


The article was not published online, only in print.

The Australian ETS surgeon interviewed for the article is Dr Roger Bell, a Melbourne vascular surgeon who specialises in ETS. In the last two years, since he advertised on the radio, he has done 100-150 sympathectomies a year. He claims he has a patient dissatisfaction rate of around 10%, though the journalist points out that he does not follow up his patients beyond one week post-surgery.

From the article:

Bell fell into his specialty almost by accident. “For years I knew there was a big need out there and that if someone just marketed this, you’d make a killing. People with facial blushing or sweaty hands suffer in silence. They hide it and their GPs don’t generally know anything about it. But I didn’t have an entrepreneurial streak in me. Then a couple of years ago I became friendly with a plastic surgeon and he said, ‘Why don’t you set up a website?’ So I did. One of the first guys who came to see me was from [Melbourne’s] Fox FM and he said, ‘Why don’t you put ads on the radio?’ I did, and things just took off. Until two years ago I was doing about five or 10 sympathectomies a year. Now I’m doing well over 100 a year, maybe 150.”