Thoracoscopic Sympathectomy for Long QT Syndrome. Literature Review and Case Study

Heart Lung Circ. 2019 Mar;28(3):486-494. doi: 10.1016/j.hlc.2018.02.005. Epub 2018 Feb 13.


Background: Multiple case studies have suggested that video-assisted thoracoscopic sympathectomy (VATS) reduces the occurrence and frequency of symptoms in long QT syndrome (LQTS) [1,2,3]. To date there has not been a literature review to report on the short-term and long-term outcomes of this procedure. Our primary aims are to review the literature findings on the clinical outcomes of VATS sympathectomy for long QT and present a local centre case report on the outcomes of T2-T5 sympathectomy.

Methods: Relevant articles were identified by a systematic search of PubMed, Cochrane and Scopus databases, from November 1985 to October 2015. A total of 520 patients from 21 publications were included for analysis and discussion in three main areas: presenting symptoms and indication for surgery, perioperative complications, and patient quality of life following surgery. Our case study reviews a 49-year-old female with recently diagnosed long QT syndrome and intolerance to beta blocker therapy successfully managed with T2-T5 thoracic sympathectomy.

Results: The most common presenting indication for operative management of long QT syndrome was syncope (208/520 patients) and tachyarrhythmia (207/520 patients). T1-T5 left sympathectomy was performed in 15/21 published reports (332/520 patients) with partial stellate removal or in its entirety. Follow-up of patients ranged from 1 month to 11 years. Four patients died in the postoperative period, from fatal arrhythmias. The most common postoperative findings were no symptoms (64/520 patients); tachyarrhythmia (55/520 patients), syncope (45/520 patients), and Horner's syndrome (13/520 patients with 27 patients reporting associated symptoms). Thirteen cases reported on the QTc changes post sympathectomy and 9/13 cases involving 220/520 patients showed marked QTc reduction following surgery. Mean preoperative QTc was 558ms and median 559ms. Mean postoperative QTc was 476ms and median 466ms. Our patient showed a marked reduction in QTc following surgery, with no evidence of arrhythmias and reduced beta blocker dependence.

Conclusions: Surgical management of LQTS has historically involved a left cervicothoracic stellectomy removing stellate ganglia and typically part of the left thoracic sympathetic chain resulting in reduction in symptoms but increasing the risk of Horner's syndrome and intermittent temperature changes [4,5]. Surgical resection of the thoracic ganglia alone for management of LQTS is scarce in the literature. Short-term follow-up in our case study following a T2-T5 sympathectomy revealed reduction in symptoms, no requirement for beta blocker therapy and reduced QTc interval. Further follow-up using greater patient numbers will further support T2-T5 sympathectomy as an option for surgical management of LQTS.

Keywords: Long QT syndrome; Sympathectomy.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Electrocardiography
  • Heart Conduction System / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Long QT Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Long QT Syndrome / surgery*
  • Stellate Ganglion / surgery*
  • Sympathectomy / methods*
  • Thoracic Surgery, Video-Assisted / methods*