Help for Excessive Sweating

January 03, 2018
Sweaty Hands

Sweating is natural and healthy, but for some people excessive sweating may be a medical condition called hyperhidrosis.

Fellowship-trained cardiothoracic surgeon Keith Mortman, MD, FACS, FCCP, has treated hundreds of patients with this condition and has seen firsthand the profound effect severe sweating can have on people’s lives. “There may be the young woman who didn’t go to her senior prom because the sweating was so bad, or the boy who didn’t learn to drive a car because his hands kept slipping off the wheel,” he says.

For certain patients with this condition, a minimally invasive outpatient procedure at GW Hospital can provide immediate relief.

“The main thing we need to differentiate is whether it’s primary or secondary hyperhidrosis,” says Dr. Mortman. The primary condition – which is the kind that can be treated surgically – begins in early childhood and tends to be much more focal, commonly affecting the palms, soles of the feet, underarms or face, Dr. Mortman explains.

People with secondary hyperhidrosis, on the other hand, tend to be older, and the sweating is secondary to something else, such as an endocrine condition or the side effect of a medication.

For patients with primary hyperhidrosis, the surgical treatment, called endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy (ETS), addresses sweating caused by over-excitation of the sympathetic nerve, which is located in the chest, says Dr. Mortman. “Through two pinpoint incisions in the armpit, we go in with a tiny scope, identify the nerve, and divide it,” he explains. The procedure usually takes less than 30 minutes and patients go home about an hour later to recover for a couple of days. It is highly effective, especially for hand sweating, and can also offer very good results for sweating in other areas, Dr. Mortman says.

“It’s such a life-altering procedure for many patients,” Dr. Mortman says. In less than 30 minutes, people’s struggles with sweating can be dramatically relieved.

US News and world report high performing hospitals heart failureU.S. News & World Report Recognition

U.S. News & World Report has recognized GW Hospital as one of the Best Hospitals in the Washington, DC metropolitan region for 2019-2020, ranking it among the top 10 percent of hospitals in the area. GW Hospital achieved fifth place out of more than 50 hospitals in the region, which includes facilities in D.C. along with parts of Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia.