Excessive blushing: One-of-a-kind surgery available only in San Antonio

Surgery provides a cure for hyperhidrosis with one incision

SAN ANTONIO – Blushing may seem like a cute trait, but when you do it all the time it can become painful and can lead to low self-esteem and suicide.

The condition is called hyperpyrexia and instead of just a reddish color appearing, it is actually a burning sensation. Many with blushing also suffer hyperhidrosis, or nonstop sweating. And then there are symptoms of Raynaud’s syndrome as well. 

Dealing with all these uncomfortable conditions is the forte of San Antonio thoracic surgeon Dr. David Nielson, who says those who suffer are often so embarrassed throughout the day, they become reclusive and depressed.

There are even cases in which the embarrassment from these conditions has led to death. Seattle college student Brandon Thomas was so overcome by his constant blushing that in his exhaustion, he jumped to his death from his dorm room. At the time his parents didn’t know about a very successful procedure called micro endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy.

Dr. Nielson holds out his fingers and demonstrates, "Say these are your ribs and this is the second, the third and the fourth and fifth rib,” he said. “There is a little nerve called the sympathetic nerve that crosses over the rib like this, and by stopping the nerve signal transmission right here at the first rib head level, we stop the sweating and blushing." 

It’s a seemingly simple and small incision, quite different from traditional procedures attempting the same effect. Nielson developed it, but because it is done by delicate touch by the surgeon, he has not been able to teach other professionals the technique. 

He uses infrared photography before and after a patient undergoes the outpatient procedure to show how effective the technique is. One patient with hyperhidrosis and Raynaud’s syndrom recently flew into San Antonio all the way from Australia for the procedure, and his hands went from having a temperature of 67 degrees to 98 degrees hours later. 

Dr. Nielson’s procedure does not require partial pleurectomy or collapsed lung, and patients report less pain because the technique is so noninvasive. Patients can return to work or school within a few days and to full physical activity in two weeks.

It is effective for hyperhidrosis, facial blushing, vascular disorders such as Raynaud’s syndrome, prolonged QT syndrome and migraine headaches. Click here for more information.

About the Author:

Ursula Pari has been a staple of television news in Texas at KSAT 12 News since 1996 and a veteran of broadcast journalism for more than 30 years.