Effectiveness and safety of endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy for excessive sweating and facial blushing: a systematic review

Int J Technol Assess Health Care. 2007 Winter;23(1):54-62. doi: 10.1017/S0266462307051574.


Objectives: Despite controversies, endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy (ETS) has been used as a treatment for excessive sweating of hands and face and for facial blushing. This study aims to evaluate the effectiveness of ETS for the current indications in a systematic review.

Methods: Controlled clinical trials and cohort studies with more than 100 patients were included. Abstracts were searched from MEDLINE and CCTR from 1966 to June 2004. Two reviewers extracted the data and assessed study quality. Data on effectiveness and safety were synthesized qualitatively.

Results: We did not find any controlled clinical trials. Fifteen prospective studies were included. The internal and external quality of these studies were poor overall. Follow-up was commonly less than 2 years, during which time excessive sweating and facial blushing seemed to decrease among most patients. Immediate complications related to thoracoscopy occurred in up to 10 percent of patients. Compensatory sweating below breast level was reported in up to 90 percent of the patients. Other common side effects included dryness of face and hands, gustatory sweating, and neuralgic pain. Several other less common side effects were reported.

Conclusions: The evidence of the effectiveness of ETS is weak due to a lack of randomized trials. The intervention leads to severe immediate complications in some of the patients, and to persistent side-effects for many of the patients.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Blushing*
  • Endoscopy*
  • Finland
  • Humans
  • Sweating*
  • Sympathectomy / methods*
  • Thoracic Nerves / surgery
  • Thoracic Surgical Procedures*
  • Treatment Outcome