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Novel Approaches for Brain Diseases Are Discussed at AANS Meeting

by Lynn Shapiro, Writer | May 13, 2009


Minimally invasive Technique Helps Excessive Sweating in Teens

An estimated 3 percent of the world population, or about 197 million people suffer from some form of hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating), many of whom do not receive proper diagnosis or treatment.

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Hyperhidrosis is a medical condition in which the body sweats three to four times the normal amount. This can lead to excessive sweating of the hands, underarms, feet, or face, and in severe cases, impede day-to-day functions most people take for granted.

While the exact cause of hyperhidrosis is unknown, researchers have linked it to over-activity of the nerves that send signals to the sweat glands in the skin.

Teenagers suffering from hyperhydrosis often experience social, emotional, and physical problems, exacerbating what is often an already vulnerable period of growth and maturity.

To combat this odd and embarrassing condition, researchers used a minimally invasive surgical technique. The results of this study were presented by Scott D. Wait, MD.

The surgical procedure described by Dr. Wait involves two tiny incisions in the chest wall just under the armpit on both sides.

A miniature camera mounted on a surgical telescope is used to access the chest and divide the sympathetic nerves responsible for the excessive sweating. This approach results in virtually undetectable scars and patients can leave the hospital the same day the surgery is performed.

Surgery was performed on 54 teens, aged 10 to 17, followed over a period of eight years. The following outcomes were achieved:

Hand, facial and underarm sweating all slowed by more than 90 percent. Sweating of the soles of the feet was hardest to treat: this type of sweating decreased in only 71 percent of patients.

When asked whether they were satisfied with the surgery results, 98 percent of patients responded "yes."

Low-dose Radiosurgery to Preserve Hearing in Skull Tumors

Brain tumors at the base of the skull may be treated effectively with low doses of Gamma Knife radiosurgery, to preserve both hearing and facial nerve function, another study found.

Vestibular schwannomas (frequently called acoustic neuromas) are common skull-base brain tumors that account for 57 percent of all nerve sheath tumors and 5 percent of all primary brain tumors.

These tumors arise near nerves that control hearing and movements of the face. Typically, patients notice unilateral (one-sided) or asymmetrical hearing loss, but sometimes these tumors are found incidentally in patients with normal hearing.