Purpose: To compare long-term results (minimum follow-up of 23 months) of periarterial sympathectomy for patients with digital vasospasm secondary to either an autoimmune disease or generalized atherosclerotic disease. Patients with posttraumatic or localized occlusive disease and vasospasm were not evaluated.
Methods: Twenty-eight patients had periarterial sympathectomy at 1 hospital by 1 senior surgeon. Periarterial sympathectomy was targeted to the areas of ulceration. Twenty patients (with 24 involved extremities and 42 ulcerated digits) had a documented autoimmune disease; 17 patients had scleroderma or an undifferentiated mixed connective tissue disorder, 2 had systemic lupus erythematosus, and 1 had rheumatoid arthritis. Eight patients (with 9 involved extremities and 17 ulcerated digits) had atherosclerotic disease. The primary outcomes were complete healing of all ulcers, a decrease in the number of ulcers, and need for amputation by the end of follow-up. Statistical analysis was done using the Fischer exact t-test.
Results: The average follow-up for all patients was 96 months (90 months for the autoimmune group and 113 months for the atherosclerotic group). Fifteen of the 20 patients (28 of 42 digits) in the autoimmune group had complete healing or decrease in ulcer number. Conversely, only 1 of the 8 patients (2 of 17 digits) in the atherosclerotic group had complete healing or decrease in ulcer number. Eleven of the 42 (26%) digits treated in the autoimmune group required amputation. In contrast, 10 of the 17 (59%) digits treated in the atherosclerotic group ultimately required amputation.
Conclusions: Periarterial sympathectomy can lead to complete healing and decrease in ulcer number in autoimmune disease patients with digital ischemia from vasospasm. However, our data suggest that periarterial sympathectomy may be of little or no benefit in patients with chronic digital ischemia and vasospasm secondary to severe atherosclerotic disease.
Type of study/level of evidence: Therapeutic III.