The aim of this study is to describe the incidence and characteristics of pain, sensory abnormalities, abnormal body sweating, and pathologic gustatory sweating in pain patients with persistent post-sympathectomy pain.
A retrospective chart review of a series of consecutive pain patients with persistent post-sympathectomy pain was performed. Inclusion criteria were: (1) sympathectomy performed for the indication of neuropathic pain, and (2) persistent pain after the procedure. Demographic data, patterns of pain before and after sympathectomy, patients' pain drawings, and incidence of pain had been collected concurrently at the time of referral. Additional data regarding sensory findings, surgical details of the sympathectomy, sweat patterns, and incidence of abnormal body sweating and pathologic gustatory sweating were extracted from the patients' charts or obtained in follow-up appointments.
Seventeen adults (13 females and 4 males) with a mean age of 37 years (range 25–52) at the time of sympathectomy met the inclusion criteria. Five of the 17 patients experienced temporary pain relief for an average of 4 months (range 2–12 months), 3/17 retained the same pain as before the surgery, 1 patient was cured of her original pain but experienced a new debilitating pain, and 8/17 patients continued to have the same or worse pain in addition to a new or expanded pain. Pathologic gustatory sweating was present in 7/11 patients asked, and abnormal sweating (known as compensatory hyperhidrosis) in 11/13 patients asked.
The present study does not allow for conclusions about the effectiveness of surgical sympathectomy for neuropathic pain. However, our findings indicate that if the pain persists after the procedure, the complications may be quite serious and at times worse than the problem for which the surgery was originally performed.