Pre-emptive local analgesia in video-assisted thoracic surgery sympathectomy

Eur J Cardiothorac Surg. 2010 Mar;37(3):588-93. doi: 10.1016/j.ejcts.2009.07.040. Epub 2009 Sep 12.


Objective: Our goal is to determine whether infiltration with a short-acting local anaesthetic such as lidocaine before the surgical incision has a pre-emptive effect on postoperative pain intensity and on incidence of paraesthesia in patients undergoing standard thoracoscopic sympathectomy for palmar hyperhidrosis.

Material and methods: This prospective study includes a consecutive series of 18 patients undergoing bilateral standard thoracoscopic sympathectomy for palmar hyperhidrosis during January 2005-December 2007. Each patient enrolled in the study was randomised to receive pre-incisional lidocaine with epinephrine infiltration of the wounds on the one side, and normal saline solution on the other. The identical surgery was performed on each side to allow patients to act as their own controls. Then, the side which received local analgesia was compared with the control side with regard to pain control and paraesthesia after 4, 24 and 168 h postoperatively. The patients and investigators were both blinded concerning the side randomised to receive pre-emptive local analgesia (PLA).

Results: We found that patients reported significantly less pain on the side treated with pre-emptive local anaesthesia in contrast to the control side 4 and 24h after surgery (p=0.001 and p=0.004, respectively). However, that difference decreased with time and was no longer significant 168 h following surgery (p=0.156). Regarding the paraesthesia, the incidence was higher in the control side than the PLA side at 4, 24 and 168 h postoperatively, but the difference was not statistically significant. A total of 17 of 18 (94%) patients noted a change in palmar hyperhidrosis status after surgery.

Conclusion: Our study shows that the pre-injection of local anaesthetic before standard thoracoscopic sympathectomy suppresses the local pain mediators, hence resulting in significantly less pain in the first postoperative 24 h but not thereafter. The clinical impact of the procedure is the possibility of early discharge to home and early return to work with potential economical benefits. However, because of the small number of patients, further studies are needed to corroborate our results.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anesthesia, Local / methods
  • Anesthetics, Local / administration & dosage*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Hand / surgery
  • Humans
  • Hyperhidrosis / surgery*
  • Lidocaine / administration & dosage*
  • Male
  • Pain Measurement / methods
  • Pain, Postoperative / prevention & control*
  • Paresthesia / etiology
  • Paresthesia / prevention & control
  • Preanesthetic Medication / methods
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sympathectomy / adverse effects*
  • Sympathectomy / methods
  • Thoracic Surgery, Video-Assisted / adverse effects
  • Thoracic Surgery, Video-Assisted / methods
  • Young Adult


  • Anesthetics, Local
  • Lidocaine