Sympathectomy is a surgical procedure that is recommended for patients with excessive sweating. Most commonly, the surgery is used to reduce excessive sweating in areas such as the feet or the armpits, but it may also be employed to solve the hyperhydrosis in the palms and hands. The effectiveness of the surgery is high and many patients experience reduced sweating after the surgery.
The results of the sympathectomy surgery used in patients with hyperhydrosis are positive, and the surgery has a success rate of 90%. If successful, the results of the surgery are permanent.
The surgery is more effective in reducing excessive sweating when applied in areas such as under the arms or feet. However, patients getting the sympathectomy surgery for excessive hand sweating have experienced positive results as well. In the case of a successful surgery, the patient will still perspire, but it will be in normal amounts.
The Sympathectomy Surgery
The surgery involves severing the sympathetic nerve, which controls the amounts of sweat secreted by the body. An incision will be made in the rib cage, which will give access to the sympathetic nerve.
The surgery may be performed as an outpatient procedure and the patient requires about 1 week of recovery time. Scars may remain after the surgery, but there is an endoscopic technique that can be performed to avoid scarring.
Possible Side Effects
Even if the sympathectomy surgery has high success rates, there may be a few side effects and risks involved. After the surgery, the patient can experience serious pain that should be managed with medication. Other side effects of sympathectomy may include:
- Decreased blood pressure (hypotension), may be temporary or permanent
- Sudden fainting, due to hypotension
- Infertility (may be permanent or temporary), but only in male patients
- Air accumulated in the chest cavity during the surgery (pneurothorax)
The risks of the sympathectomy procedure include:
- Excessive bleeding during the surgery
- Negative reactions to the anesthesia (the procedure requires local or general anesthesia)
- Infections at the incision site
- Blood clots that can easily transform into embolisms, that could potentially affect the brain, the heart or the lungs
Pain medication, antibiotics and blood thinners should be administered after the surgery to prevent a few complications.
If the sympathectomy surgery is not successful, it may be repeated in most cases. The surgeon will try to localize the sympathetic nerve and cut it, so the surgery will be successful the second time around.
Patients that undergo successful sympathectomy surgeries to reduce sweaty palms may experience hyperhydrosis in other areas of the body. This is due to the fact that the body tries to compensate for the blocked function. Often, patients may experience excessive chest sweating or sweating of the feet. There are additional topical treatments that may be used to reduce the sweating in these areas.