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Abstract

We have quantified postganglionic sweat output in human subjects resulting from axon reflex stimulation using acetylcholine electrophoresis. Dehumidified nitrogen of controlled temperature and flow rate was passed through an acrylic plastic chamber placed over a defined area of skin. Sweat droplets were evaporated; humidity change was sensed by a narrow-range humidity sensor housed in a temperature-controlled compartment and was plotted on a chart recorder. The time integral (area under the curve) was continuously integrated and converted to absolute units using a derived equation. Because stimulation and recording were simultaneous, an accurate determination of the latency of the sweat response was also possible.

Quantitative sudomotor axon reflex tests were performed on the left forearm and foot of 33 female and 29 male normal subjects aged 11 to 69 years. Acetylcholine, 10%, was electrophoresed for 5 mA-minutes in the forearm and 10 mA-minutes in the foot, and recording was continued for an additional 5 minutes. The mean sweat output in males was 2.7 and 3.0 times that in females in forearm and foot, respectively (p < 0.0001). Studies in selected autonomic neuropathies confirm that quantitative sudomotor axon reflex tests will detect postganglionic sudomotor abnormalities sensitively and reproducibly.