Peripheral Neuropathy Diagnosis and Treatment

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Autonomic Laboratory

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The autonomic laboratory performs tests to measure how organs in the body that are controlled by the autonomic nerves respond to stimulation. The data collected during testing will indicate if the autonomic nervous system is functioning normally, or if damage to autonomic nerves has occurred.

The autonomic system manages essential functions such as blood pressure, blood flow, and sweating. Autonomic tests are conducted to see if the autonomic nervous system is functioning normally. The Maryland Autonomic laboratory performs detailed testing to find out if patients have autonomic nerve disease, of to determine if passing out is due to a problem with the autonomic system.

To see if a disease is affecting the autonomic nervous system, tests are performed to monitor blood pressure, blood flow, heart rate, and sweat responses. By measuring these functions, it is possible to determine if the autonomic nervous system is functioning normally.

Tests to measure blood pressure and heart rate include:

  • A deep breathing test to assess the patient’s heart response to breathing. The deep breathing test requires the patient to take deep breaths for several minutes.
  • the Valsalva maneuver. The Valsalva maneuver requires that the patient blow into a tube to increase pressure in the chest. During the testing, blood pressure and heart rate are monitored and changes are measured.
  • A tilt table test requires that the patient lie on a table that is then raised for at least 5 minutes. During the testing, blood pressure and heart rate are monitored and changes are measured.
  • The Quantitative Sudomotor Axon Reflex Test (QSART) is another autonomic test performed to measure sweating and skin temperature. Acetylcholine and a small electric current is applied to the skin. The production of sweat is measured in the lower and upper limb.

All testing is non-invasive and usually painless.