Surgery to Stop Sweating

November 16, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
We all break a sweat now and then, but nearly 8 million Americans have a problem that makes them sweat so much, it's embarrassing. No amount of antiperspirant or powder can stop it, but there's a surgical procedure that can.Chrissey Stull used to sweat so much she couldn't hold a needle. Social situations were the worst.

"Shaking people's hands and just human contact in general was horrible," Stull told Ivanhoe. "It was extremely embarrassing."

Stull suffered from excessive sweating, or hyperhidrosis. It can affect a person's hands, armpits, feet and face.

"The sympathetic nervous system is wired abnormally in these people so that they're more sensitive to the normal triggers for sweating," Curtis Dickman, M.D., a neurosurgeon at the Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix, Ariz., told Ivanhoe.

Surgery used to mean cutting open the chest and a week or more in the hospital.

"It was a tremendously painful procedure and was very difficult to identify these sympathetic nerves with that very invasive technique," Dr. Dickman said.

Now doctors make two small incisions under the armpit and cut the nerve that supplies the sweat glands. Patients go home the same day.

"It changes the way that the body sweats," Dr. Dickman explained. "The patients no longer sweat on their hands or their armpits, and sometimes on their head and face they also have diminished sweating."

In a recent study involving 300 patients, the surgery was successful in treating over 99 percent of those with hyperhidrosis of the hands and 61 percent of those with excessive sweating under the arms.

"Life is great now," Stull said. "I'm very, very happy I did it."

Stull can exercise, play with her dogs, and do all the things she loves -- no sweat!

There's a risk the surgery can cause nerve damage. Dr. Dickman says the most common side effect is increased sweating in other areas of the body.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:
Carmelle Malkovich
Public Relations
St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center
Phoenix, AZ
(602) 406-3319
Carmelle.malkovich@chw.edu

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