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Endoscopic transthoracic sympathectomy for idiopathic upper limb hyperhidrosis

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A 5-Year experience of 51 endoscopic transthoracic dorsal sympathectomies for idiopathic palmar hyperhidrosis in 26 patients is presented. Fifty-two percent complained of excessive sweating over their hands, 28% of axillary sweating and 20% over both areas, with a mean duration of 10 years. The second, third and fourth thoracic ganglia and their interconnecting fibres on the affected side were ablated using diathermy cautery. Over a mean follow up time of 26 months, this procedure was successful in curing or improving intractable sweating in 92%. However, axillary sweating was less well controlled than in the palms with 20% of patients describing residual wetness in the axilla. Compensatory sweating (75%) and gustatory sweating (48%) were the commonest side effects; despite this, most patients were satisfied with the functional and cosmetic outcome. Other complications included a temporary Horner's syndrome in one patient, a pneumothorax in the immediate post-operative period in another and a unilateral non-infective reactionary pleural effusion in a third. Two patients developed recurrence of palmar hyperhidrosis within 6 months of surgery. One has been successfully treated by re-operation on the affected side. All patients complained of mild to moderate interscapular chest pain which was easily controlled by non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents, and resolved within 7–10 days post-operatively. The technique of endoscope transthoracic sympathectomy is effective, relatively simple to perform and usually requires only an overnight stay. It is recommended as the surgical treatment of choice for upper limb hyperhidrosis unresponsive to conservative measures.

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Correspondence to J. A. Rennie MS.

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Masters, A., Rennie, J.A. Endoscopic transthoracic sympathectomy for idiopathic upper limb hyperhidrosis. Clinical Autonomic Research 2, 349–352 (1992). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01824306

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Key words

  • Endoscopic
  • Laparoscopy
  • Sympathectomy
  • Hyperhidrosis