FAQs about Treatment for Hyperhydrosis

Is sympathectomy right for me?

Our physicians meet with every potential surgical patient on a one-to-one basis to review your past medical history and current symptoms. The consultation appointment is usually 30 ”“ 60 minutes in length and we encourage you to bring your questions with you to this appointment. Please feel free to bring along a friend or family member who can help you remember the information covered during the consultation appointment. Every case is unique and our physicians thoroughly assess each patient before making a clinical decision.

Where is the procedure performed?

The Thoracoscopic Sympathectomy is performed at the University of Maryland Medical Center, a world-renowned teaching institution at the forefront of medical education and research. The Medical Center has state-of-the-art operating rooms with all of the newest videoscopic equipment. We are located at 22 S. Greene Street, Baltimore, MD.

Who performs sympathectomy?

At UMMC, Dr. Whitney Burrows, a board certified thoracic surgeon, performs sympathectomy. Dr. Burrows is experienced in minimally invasive thoracoscopic surgery and has performed this procedure on many patients with great success.

What are the possible risks of sympathectomy?

As with any surgical procedure, there is some level of risk for the procedure. Some risks are related to general anesthesia, chest surgery, and some are related specifically to Thoracoscopic Sympathectomy. These include bleeding, infection and pneumothorax or lung collapse. Those risks specific to sympathectomy include Compensatory Sweating and Horner's Syndrome.

What is Compensatory Sweating?

Compensatory sweating refers to sweating that occurs in sites other than the original site of hyperhidrosis. This may occur in approximately 50 percent of patients and occurs immediately or months after the surgery. Sometimes the compensatory sweating will resolve itself.

What is Horner's Syndrome?

Horner's Syndrome is caused by damage to the stellate ganglia, which is avoided as much as reasonably possible by the surgeon. This results in decreased facial sweating, eyelid drooping, and enlarged pupil on the opposite side. Horner's Syndrome is more likely to occur when working higher up on the sympathectic nerve chain, especially when treating facial blushing. A minor plastic surgery procedure can correct the eyelid drooping and the other symptoms are not externally obvious to the untrained person.

Do you clip or cut the sympathetic nerve chain?

Our practice at the University of Maryland Medical Center is to only "cut" the sympathetic nerve chain. This method allows for improved success. This method involves cutting the sympathetic nerve chain with an electric cautery. This ceases the function of that particular nerve segment. "Clipping" usually involves another procedure that needs to be performed for reversal and is not our standard of practice.

Can sympathectomy be an option for facial blushing or facial sweating?

Each individual is evaluated on a case-by-case basis and, depending on your symptoms, you may be an appropriate candidate for sympathectomy to treat facial blushing or facial sweating. Be aware that when treating facial blushing or facial sweating, it involves operating higher on the sympathectic nerve chain, which can pose a higher risk of Horner's Syndrome, and a higher incidence of compensatory sweating.

Is sympathectomy covered by my insurance?

Generally speaking, most insurance companies will cover the procedure if they consider hyperhidrosis a medical necessity. It is best to verify coverage with your insurance company for the procedure. Many insurance companies require documentation that the patient has first tried medical or conservative treatment before considering surgical treatment.

For patients who are not covered by any kind of medical insurance, our office can assist you with making financial arrangements.

Can I speak with a patient who has already had a sympathectomy?

Yes. After your consultation appointment, we can arrange for you to speak with a patient who has already undergone sympathectomy.

How can I arrange for more information or set up a consultation appointment?

To learn more about sympathectomy, please call 410-328-6366.

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