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 will get medicine to make you sleep and prevent pain during the surgery. The doctor will make two or three cuts (incisions) in the spaces between your ribs near your armpit. The doctor will put a thin, lighted tube with a camera on it into your chest through one of the incisions. This tube is called a scope. It lets your doctor see inside your chest. Then the doctor will guide small surgical tools through the other 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 are usually closed with stitches that will dissolve on their own. You will have small scars that will fade with time.
You will probably be able to go home the same day as the surgery. You may be able to go back to work or your usual routine in 1 to 3 weeks.
Most people will have less sweating from their hands as soon as they wake up from surgery. But sometimes there can be more sweating from the feet after surgery. This is called compensatory sweating.
After this surgery, some people notice that they feel dizzy if they stand up too quickly. This usually gets better with time.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
Surgery can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for surgery.
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Current as of: October 14, 2016
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
& Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine & A. Evan Eyler, MD, MPH - Family Medicine, Psychiatry
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