Thoracoscopic sympathectomy for hyperhidrosis: Indications and results

Neelan Doolabh, Shannon Horswell, Mary Williams, Lynne Huber, Syma Prince, Dan M. Meyer, Michael J. Mack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

118 Scopus citations


Background. Hyperhidrosis can cause significant professional and social handicaps. Although treatments such as oral medication, botox, and iontophoresis are available, surgical sympathectomy is being increasingly utilized. Methods. Between January 1997 and December 2002, 180 patients with palmar, axillary, facial, or plantar hyperhidrosis underwent a thoracoscopic sympathectomy. Surgical technique evolved during our study period and included excision of the sympathetic ganglia at T2, T3, or T 4 depending on the location of the sweating using monopolar cautery. Results. Patient demographics included 33% males (59/180) and 67% females (121/180), with a mean age of 29.2 years old (range 12 to 76 years old). Ethnic origin was 67% white (122/180), 19% Asian (34/180), 8% Black (14/180), and 6% Hispanic (10/180). Positive family history of hyperhidrosis was noted in 57%. Preoperatively, 49% patients (86/180) had palmar sweating only, 7% patients (12/180) axillary only, 24% patients (43/180) palmar and axillary, 16% patients (28/180) face/scalp only, and 7% patients (11/180) all of the above; additionally 69% patients (125/180) had plantar hyperhidrosis. All procedures were performed through 3-mm and 5-mm ports, and 98% (177/180) were completed as an outpatient procedure. Complications included a mild temporary Horner's Syndrome (n = 1; 0.5%), air leak requiring chest drainage (n = 9; 5%), and bleeding (n = 3; 1.6%) requiring thoracoscopic reexploration (n = 1) and chest drainage (n = 2). Success rates were palmar 100% (109/109), axillary 98% (48/49), and face/scalp 93% (26/28). Plantar hyperhidrosis responded with improvement in 82% (72/88) of all patients. Seventy-eight percent patients (96/123) experienced compensatory hyperhidrosis, usually affecting the stomach, chest, back, and neck. Overall satisfaction was 94% (139/148). Conclusions. Thoracoscopic sympathectomy is a safe and effective outpatient method for managing hyperhidrosis. Although overall satisfaction is high, patients should be fully informed about the potential for compensatory sweating.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)410-414
Number of pages5
JournalAnnals of Thoracic Surgery
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Thoracoscopic sympathectomy for hyperhidrosis: Indications and results'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this