The amount of compensatory sweating depends on the patient, the damage that the white rami communicans incurs, and the amount of cell body reorganization in the spinal cord after surgery.
Other potential complications include inadequate resection of the ganglia, gustatory sweating, pneumothorax, cardiac dysfunction, post-operative pain, and finally Horner’s syndrome secondary to resection of the stellate ganglion.

After severing the cervical sympathetic trunk, the cells of the cervical sympathetic ganglion undergo transneuronic degeneration
After severing the sympathetic trunk, the cells of its origin undergo complete disintegration within a year.

Spinal cord infarction occurring during thoraco-lumbar sympathectomy
J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 1963;26:418-421 doi:10.1136/jnnp.26.5.418

Saturday, March 10, 2012

our advice to patients must reflect the true potential outcomes

Dear Editor,
I refer to the article on palmar hyperhidrosis by Dr Sanjay Sharma (Managing palmar hyperhidrosis, March). I feel that the adverse effects [of thoracoscopic sympathectomy] are understated by my colleague. For example, compensatory hyperhidrosis is common, and can be disabling, leading to regret about the procedure in some patients (up to 51% in one review). Reversal of the procedure is difficult and requires sural nerve transplant if the sympathetic chain is removed.
The procedure can be effective and worthwhile, but our advice to patients must reflect the true potential outcomes.
Dr Ian Gilfillan, Cardiothoracic Surgeon

Friday, March 9, 2012

post-sympathectomy neuralgia is frequent

Surgical sympathectomy has a long heritage for the treatment of peripheral vascular disease and various chronic pain problems.

Despite concerns expressed as long ago as 1942 about the efficacy of surgical sympathectomy for the management of non-cancer pain, the procedure was enthusiastically pursued for the management of reflex sympathetic dystrophy or complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), migraine, dysmenorrhea, epilepsy, chronic pancreatitis, postherpetic neuralgia of the trigeminal nerve, postdiscectomy syndrome, and phantom limb pain. However, systematic reviews have found no tangible evidence supportive of sympathectomy for the management of neuropathic pain. Furthermore, postsympathectomy neuralgia is a common complaint with a reported incidence between 15% to 50%.

As surgery is often mentioned as a cause of CRPS, it is somewhat illogical to consider surgery as an effective treatment. Nonetheless, surgical sympathectomy has a long anecdotal history in the treatment of RSD, and more recently endoscopic and radiofrequency sympathectomy has been tried.

Bonica's Management of Pain,
Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2009 - 2064 pages