Background: Compensatory sweating is a well-known side effect after sympathectomy for hyperhidrosis. It is often claimed to correlate with the extent of sympathectomy, but results from the literature are conflicting, and few have actually considered differences in the intensity of compensatory sweating.
Methods: A total of 158 patients underwent thoracoscopic sympathectomy for primary hyperhidrosis or blushing, or both. Sympathectomy was performed bilaterally at Th2 for facial hyperhidrosis/blushing (n = 49), Th2-3 for palmar hyperhidrosis (n = 62), and Th2-4 for axillary hyperhidrosis (n = 47).
Results: Follow-up by questionnaire was possible in 94% of patients after a median of 26 months. Compensatory sweating occurred in 89% of patients and was so severe in 35% that they often had to change their clothes during the day. The frequency of compensatory sweating was not significantly different among the three groups, but severity was significantly higher after Th2-4 sympathectomy for axillary hyperhidrosis (p = 0.04). Gustatory sweating occurred in 38% of patients, and 16% of patients regretted the operation.
Conclusions: Compensatory and gustatory sweating were remarkably frequent side effects after thoracoscopic sympathectomy for primary hyperhidrosis. We found no significant difference between the level of sympathectomy and the occurrence of compensatory sweating. However, it appears that this is the first study to demonstrate that severe sweating is significantly more frequent after Th2-4 sympathectomy for axillary hyperhidrosis. We encourage informing patients thoroughly about these side effects before surgery.