Depending on the skill of the surgeon and difficulty encountered performing various intraoperative maneuvers, the incidence of complications following sympathectomy should be the same as that following any other extraperitoneal or extrapleural operation. However, a frequent complication following sympathectomy, and one which is apparently unrelated to operative technique, is that of postsympathectomy neuralgia.
This neuralgia is characterized by aching thigh pain after lumbar sympathectomy or aching shoulder and arm pain after cervical sympathectomy. The pain is intense in severity, sudden in onset and disappearance, and not related to any major neurologic manifestations.
Recently we have reviewed the files of the Vascular Surgical Service at the West Roxbury Veteran's Hospital and the literature on this condition. This report is a presentation of our findings.
Pain following sympathectomy has been described as "an all too common complaint."8 Reports have varied in incidence from 2.1% to "practically every case."3,5-8,12-18,21-25From
LITWIN MS. Postsympathectomy Neuralgia. Arch Surg. 1962;84(5):591–595. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1962.01300230107022