Background: A very popular modality with the media is psychic surgery which has received little scientific evaluation though. Such phenomena always raise the issues of fakery and deceit. Research has been scarce.
Methods: We report an investigation on one of the most famous psychic surgeons in Brazil, João Teixeira de Farias. 30 surgical interventions with cutting were studied, 6 patients undergoing history-taking, physical examination and analysis of the materials supposedly extracted from them.
Results: We were struck by the fact that the surgeon really incisions skin or ocular epithelium in addition to scraping the cornea without identified anaesthetics or antiseptics being used. Just one woman complained of pain as she had her breast incised. Longer follow up of patients failed to notice any infection in the surgical sites. Histopathology found the specimens to be compatible with their site of origin and, apart from a 210g. lipoma, were healthy tissues without discernible pathology.
Conclusions: The surgerical procedures are real but we couldn't evaluate the efficacy. It didn't appear to have any specific effect. Our findings are undoubtedly more of an exploratory kind than conclusive ones. Further studies are clearly necessary to cast light on this unorthodox treatment.