Sympathectomies are carried out to reduce sweating in the hand, armpit and face. There are a number of reasons why people sweat excessively so before carrying out any surgical procedure you will undergo tests to ensure that your condition cannot be treated alternatively with medication. Transthoracic sympathectomy is reserved for patients who are resistant to medical treatment or patients who have a significant problem which is seriously affecting their life.
The operation involves cutting the sympathetic chain which is part of the autonomic nervous system; nerves which control involuntary function such as sweating and temperature regulation. The sympathetic chain runs alongside the vertebral bodies and can be approached directly through the axilla. These operations are now carried out with keyhole instruments avoiding the traditional procedure which involved open-chest surgery.
The procedure itself simply involves injecting air into the chest and then using a fine telescope to identify the sympathetic nerve before dividing it. Patients are usually in hospital for 24 hours and will notice an immediate effect in terms of sweating.
These procedures can be life changing but are only carried out following proper investigation.