29th of July, 2021 Odalis Santos Mena, a 23-year-old social media influencer, athlete, bodybuilder, and fitness competitor, died from a heart attack while seeking treatment for underarm sweating.
The condition, known as underarm hyperhidrosis, was being treated at a Mexican “wellness centre.” Mena was scheduled to receive a miraDry treatment, which, while costly, is known to be a safe and effective procedure.
“Ideally, what you’re doing is heating up and destroying the sweat glands and underarms,” says Adam Friedman, MD, professor and chair of dermatology at George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences. “In essence, you’re getting rid of the source of the problem, which is the current sweat glands.”
According to the International Hyperhidrosis Society, Mena’s death was caused by anaesthesia administered by someone who was not a trained anaesthetist, as well as a drug reaction between that anaesthesia and the medications and supplements she was taking.
MiraDry is an FDA-approved, portable medical device. It’s a nonsurgical underarm procedure that’s supposed to be performed with local anaesthesia, usually just numbing the armpit area, rather than “general” or “full” anaesthesia, which puts a person in a sleep-like, unconscious state. MiraDry should only be used by a trained, licenced medical professional.
The issue in Mena’s case was not the treatment, but the apparent lack of communication between practitioner and patient.
“I think the intake is certainly important,” Friedman says, adding that “someone who is well-versed in how to do that as well as thinking broadly about everything you need to know about the person before administering anaesthesia is really important.” “I’m not sure where the breakdown in communication occurred, but it should not have happened.”
There are numerous types of anaesthesia, all of which are considered safe when used properly. Anesthesiologist Christopher Troianos, MD, told the Cleveland Clinic that advances in medicine and technology have made anaesthesia safer.
“It was not uncommon in the 1960s and 1970s to have a death related to anaesthesia in every 10,000 or 20,000 patients,” he said. “It’s now more like one in every 200,000 patients – it’s extremely rare.”