Novel methods of imaging and analysis for the thermoregulatory sweat test

Carroll, M. S.; Reed, D. W.; Kuntz, N. L.; Weese-Mayer, D. E.

J Appl Physiol (1985). 2018 Jun 8

Abstract

The thermoregulatory sweat test (TST) can be central to the identification and management of disorders affecting sudomotor function and small sensory and autonomic nerve fibers, but the cumbersome nature of the standard testing protocol has prevented its widespread adoption. A high resolution, quantitative, clean and simple assay of sweating could significantly improve identification and management of these disorders. Images from 89 clinical TSTs were analyzed retrospectively using two novel techniques. First, using the standard indicator powder, skin surface sweat distributions were determined algorithmically for each patient. Second, a fundamentally novel method using thermal imaging of forced evaporative cooling was evaluated through comparison with the standard technique. Correlation and receiver operating characteristic analyses were used to determine the degree of match between these methods, and the potential limits of thermal imaging were examined through cumulative analysis of all studied patients. Algorithmic encoding of sweating and non-sweating regions produces a more objective analysis for clinical decision making. Additionally, results from the forced cooling method correspond well with those from indicator powder imaging, with a correlation across spatial regions of -0.78 (CI: -0.84 to -0.71). The method works similarly across body regions, and frame-by-frame analysis suggests the ability to identify sweating regions within about 1 second of imaging. While algorithmic encoding can enhance the standard sweat testing protocol, thermal imaging with forced evaporative cooling can dramatically improve the TST by making it less time-consuming and more patient-friendly than the current approach.

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