Sweat gland suction
This is another type of surgery for excessive sweating or hyperhidrosis. It is a new form of treatment which has been adapted from liposuction but instead of fat being removed the sweat glands are sucked out - hence the name ‘sweat gland suction’.
This is one of two types of surgery for excessive sweating: the other type is endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy.
Surgery is only performed if other types of treatment have failed to work such as iontophoresis, strong antiperspirants or even a few lifestyle changes. But is not something to undertake lightly. All surgery has risks although these are marginal when compared to the number of operations performed each year. Nevertheless, it is important to be aware of these before you go ahead with surgery.
This surgery is used to treat excessive sweating of the armpits (known as axillary hyperhidrosis). The main reason for this is scarring: this procedure results in scarring which is likely to be distressing if they occur on the face, hands or feet whereas they are hidden in the armpits.
Is surgery necessary?
This is a question you need to ask yourself. If you have a severe form of excessive sweating which is affecting your quality of life then it is an option.
But if you have a mild form then it may be worth trying other treatment options such as the two mentioned above before considering surgery.
Surgery is a serious option which is why we would advise you to explore all options before you do so. But sweat gland suction can be an effective form of treatment for hyperhidrosis so do not dismiss it.
Ask your GP for advice. The chances are that you will have already visited him/her about your excessive sweating and he/she will have recommended a range of treatments.
Your GP will only advise you to have surgery is all else has failed or if you have a serious case of excessive sweating.
Where to obtain this surgery
This is a relatively new procedure which is unlikely to be offered on the NHS. There are only a certain number of surgeons in the UK who carry out this type of surgery although this number is increasing.
But the surgeons who perform this surgery are based in private clinics and hospitals so you will probably have to pay for this surgery.
Research clinics and surgeons carefully and obtain as much information and advice as possible. Talk to others who have undergone this surgery.
Make a list of several possible clinics and visit them in turn. Ask as many questions as you need to and ask again until you receive satisfactory answers. If the clinic appears to be interested in your money rather than your wellbeing then look at others instead.
Our endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy section has a list of questions to ask the surgeon and clinic. It also contains more information about private clinics and the initial consultation with the surgeon.
Sweat gland suction procedure
This is usually performed under a local anaesthetic. A skin softening substance is applied to the skin before a series of tiny incisions are made above and below the armpit. These are done to allow access for the liposuction tube.
The tube is inserted and used to remove the softened sweat glands.
These glands lie just below the surface of the skin so are easy to remove. This is a painless procedure which takes around an hour to 1 hour 30 minutes and can be done as day surgery.
This means that you will be able to return home on the same day.
The incisions will be closed and the area covered with a surgical dressing or bandage.
After sweat gland suction
It is a good idea to arrange for someone to drive you home after this procedure. You can return to work on the same day although it is recommended that you wait until the next day to do so. Give yourself a chance to rest and recover.
This is especially important if for some reason you have had a general anaesthetic. If this is the case then avoid driving, operating any machinery or making any legal or complicated decisions for 24 hours following this surgery.
You will be given pain relief or failing that, you can take an over the counter medicine such as Ibuprofen which is available from a pharmacy.
You will be asked to attend an outpatient’s clinic for a follow up examination.
Benefits of sweat gland suction
These include a high success rate, no risk of compensatory sweating (sweating which occurs in other parts of the body) and no need for additional treatment.
Many people who have undergone this surgery report that they experience less sweating, reduced embarrassment and social anxiety.
It is often people with the most severe form of excessive sweating who benefit the most from this procedure.
Risks of sweat gland suction
As with any type of surgery there are risks associated with this procedure which are as follows:
- It is only suitable for axillary hyperhidrosis (excess sweating from the armpits).
- It carries risks that are associated with any surgery such as infection.
- Risk of skin discolouration
- Not usually available on the NHS
This surgery is effective in the majority of cases but unfortunately, there are people who are dissatisfied with the results. Everyone responds differently to surgery so what works for one person may not work as well for another.
Other types of sweat gland surgery
There are a few variations on this type of surgery which all involve removal of the sweat glands but using different or a combination of techniques.
These include retrodermal curettage and laser sweat ablation.
A variation on the sweat gland suction procedure in which the sweat glands are removed using a special instrument (called a curette). This procedure is carried out under a local or general anaesthetic and is proven to be effective at treating excessive sweating.
Laser sweat ablation
This is a similar procedure to sweat gland suction and retrodermal curettage in that it involves the removal of the sweat glands. The aim is to kill off the sweat glands and then remove them with minimal damage to the skin.
A starch-iodine test is performed on the affected area. This is followed by a local anaesthetic injection to help numb the area.
Two incisions are made above and below the armpits in which the dermis (layer of skin which contains the sweat glands etc) is separated from the layer of subcutaneous fat.
The laser is aimed at this area. It is pointed at the underside of the dermis to destroy the sweat glands. These dead glands are then removed using a suction technique followed by scraping away these glands and tissue.
The skin is pushed back into place over the subcutaneous fat along with a compression dressing. Local anaesthetic is applied at this time.
This skin is held in place by a compression waistcoat. This is worn for 2 to 3 days following surgery.
This is an overview only of this procedure.
Excessive Sweating (Hyperhidrosis)
- Guide to Excessive Sweating (Hyperhidrosis)
- What is excessive sweating?
- Types of excessive sweating
- General hyperhidrosis
- Primary focal hyperhidrosis
- Secondary focal hyperhidrosis
- Sleep hyperhidrosis
- Causes of excessive sweating
- Symptoms of excessive sweating
- Diagnosis of excessive sweating
- Treatment for excessive sweating
- Lifestyle changes
- Sweat pads
- Botulinum toxin
- Endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy
- Sweat gland suction
- Long term effects of excessive sweating
- Excessive sweating FAQs