A sweat chamber employs thermoregulatory sweat testing (TST) to diagnose patients suffering from symptoms related to the autonomic nervous system.

Sweat chamber added to Sentara autonomic lab

Sentara Healthcare is introducing a sweat chamber that employs thermoregulatory sweat testing (TST) to help diagnose patients suffering from symptoms related to the autonomic nervous system. The ability to uncover autonomic conditions, including those underlying highly prevalent diseases such as diabetes, makes the chamber an invaluable diagnostic tool for physicians to identify neurological disconnects in the body. Sentara is one of only seven known locations in the United States that provides this cutting-edge TST chamber as part of its fully equipped autonomic lab – and the only one in the mid-Atlantic region.

The Next Generation of Sweat Testing

Located at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, the Sentara Neuromuscular and Autonomic Center houses the autonomic lab and a broad range of specialized services that help determine rare – and often overlooked – autonomic disorders in a person’s autonomic nervous system (ANS). The ANS regulates essentially all involuntary bodily functions, including perspiration, heart rate, digestion, respiration rate, salivation and pupil dilation. Autonomic testing is designed to determine how well the body is regulating these functions and leads to new syndrome discoveries, advanced diagnoses and tailored treatment regimens.

“We often treat patients that have been symptomatic for a long time – for some, more than 10 years – because no one has been able to accurately diagnose their complex condition,” says Kevin McNeeley, Sentara Autonomic Lab coordinator. “I am proud that Sentara has advanced its autonomic lab with a state-of-the-art sweat chamber so we can diagnose patients in an even more comprehensive and accurate way.”

Patients enter the sauna-like chamber covered in a paprika-colored powder, where TST technology is used to evaluate the patient’s entire sudomotor (sweat-producing) system and sweat patterns. Body parts with this powder that do not turn purple upon exit indicate potential areas where sweat glands are not properly functioning and need unique treatment.

The Importance of Comprehensive Autonomic Testing

The diagnosis of ANS disorders relies on the quality and strength of autonomic function testing. TST is just one of seven tests available in Sentara’s autonomic lab that evaluate the body’s sweat-producing system; sympathetic and parasympathetic systems; subcutaneous blood flow; and other autonomic functions.

“Disorders of the autonomic system and its functions are underdiagnosed and much more widespread than people realize. Approximately 60 to 80 percent of diabetics suffer from undiagnosed autonomic disorders, one of the most common being autonomic nerve damage, or neuropathy,” explains Dr. Kamal Chemali, director of the Sentara Neuromuscular and Autonomic Center. “Our full-service autonomic lab allows us to evaluate patients in an integrated manner and provide them with long-awaited answers and relief.”

Virginia Beach resident and Sentara patient Linda Lilley suffered for 25 years from a variety of symptoms – irregular heartbeat, fainting and extreme dizziness, to name a few – without many answers. After she was encouraged to visit the Sentara Autonomic Lab, Dr. Chemali and team provided comprehensive autonomic testing that confirmed a prior diagnosis of Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), in addition to two other rare disorders responsible for her chronic symptoms called Sjögren's syndrome and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Linda is now able to successfully manage her symptoms and experience a better quality of life.

“I don’t know what condition I would currently be in if I had not been introduced to and assessed by the team at Sentara,” said Linda. “There are so many people who are unnecessarily suffering without answers. My hope is to spread the word about these wonderful diagnostic capabilities and encourage others to get tested.”

Since July 2013, Dr. Chemali and his multidisciplinary team overseeing the autonomic lab have served patients in need from across the U.S. and all corners of the world. Sentara is proud to continue its legacy of providing top quality care for patients and innovative solutions to advance successful diagnosis and detection of autonomic nervous system disorders.