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Is Thoracic Sympathectomy safe and effective?

Posted 7 years.


  • Eily - 4 years ago

    Hello Friends,

    I am 59 and had the 3rd Thoracic Sympathectomy performed by a lung surgeon about 5 years ago. I wish I had the opportunity to do it sooner. It changed my life instantly and dramatically. Immediately after surgery, in the presence of my doctor, my hands were dry, my underarms were dry, my feet were even dry. It was a same day procedure, and while it took me a few days to get back to normal, mostly from the anesthesia, I would recommend it to anyone suffering with this condition.

    My torso now sweats when I get nervous or warm from heat or exercise. I wear a tank top under most things so it doesn't show. So still my clothing options are limited. I experience something like normal mild hot flashes when I wake in the morning. I don't drench the sheets like I used to though. There is a tiny bit of skin peeling from dry hands now and again.

    I suffered all my life as a result of feeing embarrassed, ashamed, fearful and anxious every day for as long as I can remember. Some of my earliest memories include an awareness of this as being a problem. It was devastating to deal with once in school. I carried a handkerchief not for tears, but to dry my hands in an emergency.

    Decisions were made for me and in many cases: school uniforms, handling papers, books, dating, holding hands, playing piano, walking barefoot, wearing most fabrics and colors, were not option . Driving with sweaty hands can be dangerous. The club flew out of my hands at my first golf lesson nearly hitting the instructor.

    Choices all my life were made to accommodate the condition. I dropped out of girls scouts because the uniform showed my sweaty armpits. I avoided the dances and proms. I did not become a varsity cheerleader for the same reason. I became a hippy as a result of not fitting in anywhere else. I also became a runner where sweating a lot even for women is normal.

    I did not become an occupational therapist because of sweaty hands. I made most of my own clothes to design around the armpit stains. I did study textiles since I knew them so well. I became a hugger to avoid shaking hands. I can still feel the sting of disgusted looks all my life form adults and kids who were on the receiving end of a sweaty hand when a hand shake or hand holding was unavoidable.

    The highest price of living with Hyperhydrosis was a sense of self worth. I felt like damaged goods and set the bar pretty low in terms of relationships with men, settling for less than a mutually respectful and nurturing marriage which ended in divorce. Even after the surgery opened up options I thought I'd never have, I still struggle with self esteem today. The up side is it put me on a path of spiritual awakening. I read the latest self help literature and am learning to meditate and practice yoga. I have learned to love and take care of this body and the person I am inside.

    God bless us one and all.

  • Betty - 7 years ago

    ETS isn't safe - it's now been banned in Sweden, the country that pioneered this surgery. More and more surgeons are refusing to carry out this surgery because of the dangers. The best side effect you could hope for is your sweating gets much worse and moves to different areas of your body. If the surgeon cuts the wrong sympathetic chain (we have two either side) then it means permanent and irreversible disabilities - as well as excessive sweating elsewhere on your body. Finally, the worst side-effect - the surgeon has to collapse your lungs to reach the sympathetic chains. If your lung is pierced in this process then there is a very high chance of death.

    There are so many others that could accompany them - ie weak lungs that collapse from time to time, breathing difficulties, skin so dry that it needs constantly topping up with oils and lotions to stop it from being sore and cracking - and these are the symptoms we know about. The sympathetic chains are attached to major organs such as the heart - but nobody seems to know why because the surgery is relatively young - whilst there are many people who have had the surgery, there aren't any older people around, not yet. I'd rather not be the first to find out what it does to the heart.

    None of these side effects make me want to risk having the surgery, despite severe sweating from my head to my feet.

    Please contact me on if you'd like to speak to a victim of the surgery or visit my website at if you just want to find out more in general.

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