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Thoracoscopic Sympathectomy: Before Your Surgery

What is a thoracoscopic sympathectomy?

Thoracoscopic sympathectomy is surgery to cut or clamp the sympathetic nerves. These nerves run down both sides of the spine. The surgery may be done to help control heavy sweating of the hands. It also may be used to treat chronic pain or other problems with the sympathetic nerve system. This surgery may also be called endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy.

You may be asleep during this surgery. Or you may get medicine to prevent pain and make you relax during surgery. The doctor may make a small cut (incision) in a space between your ribs near your armpit. The doctor will put a thin, lighted tube with a camera on it into your chest through the incision. This tube is called a scope. It lets your doctor see inside your chest. Then the doctor will guide small surgical tools through the incision. The doctor will use these tools to cut or clamp the nerves. The procedure can then be done on the other side of the chest.

The incisions may be closed with stitches. You will have small scars that will fade with time.

You may go home the same day as the surgery. Or you may stay 1 night in the hospital.

How do you prepare for surgery?

Surgery can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for surgery.

Preparing for surgery

  • Be sure you have someone to take you home. Anesthesia and pain medicine will make it unsafe for you to drive or get home on your own.
  • Understand exactly what surgery is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • If you take aspirin or some other blood thinner, ask your doctor if you should stop taking it before your surgery. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do. These medicines increase the risk of bleeding.
  • Tell your doctor ALL the medicines and natural health products you take. Some may increase the risk of problems during your surgery. Your doctor will tell you if you should stop taking any of them before the surgery and how soon to do it.
  • Make sure your doctor and the hospital have a copy of your advance care plan. If you don't have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets others know your health care wishes. It's a good thing to have before any type of surgery or procedure.

What happens on the day of surgery?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If you don't, your surgery may be cancelled. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of surgery, take them with only a sip of water.
  • Take a bath or shower before you come in for your surgery. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.
  • Do not shave the surgical site yourself.
  • Take off all jewellery and piercings. And take out contact lenses, if you wear them.

At the hospital or surgery centre

  • Bring a picture ID.
  • The area for surgery is often marked to make sure there are no errors.
  • You will be kept comfortable and safe by your anesthesia provider. You may get medicine that relaxes you or puts you in a light sleep. The area being worked on will be numb. Or you may be asleep during the surgery.
  • The surgery will take about 1 to 2 hours.

When should you call your doctor?

  • You have questions or concerns.
  • You don't understand how to prepare for your surgery.
  • You become ill before the surgery (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
  • You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about having the surgery.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.