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INTRODUCTION: Thorascopic sympathectomy is accepted as an effective treatment for palmar hyperhidrosis, facial blushing and to a lesser extent for digital ischaemia and axillary hyperhidrosis. PATIENTS AND METHODS: Data were collected retrospectively on patients undergoing thorascopic sympathectomy at St Peter's Hospital between 1987 and 2006. Patients were followed up by telephone interview. RESULTS: A total of 233 thorascopic sympathectomy procedures were performed by a single operator in 123 patients. Ages ranged from 9-71 years and 75 were women. In patients, 105 had a bilateral and 13 a unilateral procedure, 5 patients had a bilateral procedure performed in two stages. In 6 upper limbs, the procedure could not be done. Overall, 110 patients (90%) had the procedure performed for palmar hyperhidrosis, 8 (6%) for facial blushing and in 5 (4%) patients the operation was performed for digital ischaemia with tissue loss. There were no deaths and all patients were discharged on day 1 following the procedure. Complications included bleeding (2), pulmonary oedema (1) and failed procedure (2); however, no incidences of Horner's syndrome occurred. Only 40 of 123 (32.5%) patients gave follow-up information. Of this small group, 33 of 40 (83%) were cured, 4 of 40 (10%) were better, 2 of 40 (5%) were unchanged and 1 patient was worse. Only 22 out of 40 (55%) of these patients were troubled by compensatory sweating, with only 4 of 40 (10%) reporting this as a major problem. CONCLUSIONS: Thorascopic sympathectomy is safe and can be carried out as a single bilateral procedure in the majority of cases. The laser allows the use of a single port, requires less dissection than surgical or clipping techniques, is more precise than diathermy and may be less likely to cause a Horner's syndrome.

Original publication




Journal article


Ann R Coll Surg Engl

Publication Date





142 - 145


Adolescent, Adult, Aged, Blushing, Child, England, Female, Fingers, Flushing, Humans, Hyperhidrosis, Ischemia, Laser Therapy, Male, Middle Aged, Retrospective Studies, Sympathectomy, Thoracoscopy, Toes, Treatment Outcome