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Video-assisted Thoracoscopic Sympathectomy for the Treatment of Facial Blushing: Ultrasonic Scalpel Versus Diathermy

Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/s1579-2129(06)60186-9
  • Facial Blushing
  • Video-Assisted Thoracoscopic Sympathectomy And Sympatholysis
  • Ultrasonic Scalpel
  • Rubor Facial
  • Simpaticotomía Y Simpaticólisis Torácica Por Videotoracoscopia
  • Bisturí Ultrasónico


Objective To evaluate the advantages of the ultrasonic scalpel compared to electrocoagulation in patients undergoing video-assisted thoracoscopic sympatholysis or sympathectomy for uncontrolled facial blushing. Methods Two hundred bilateral video-assisted thoracoscopic procedures to interrupt transmission in the thoracic sympathetic nerve were performed in 100 patients with incapacitating facial blushing. In 2 cases, the video-assisted approach was chosen because of pleural symphysis. The mean age of patients was 34 years (range: 15 to 67). The sympathetic chain was interrupted from the lower portion of the first thoracic ganglion through the third. Results All patients were discharged within 24 hours with the exception of one on whom an emergency thoracotomy had been performed. No complications were reported in the group in which a harmonic scalpel was used. One case of temporary Horner syndrome (4 months) and 3 cases of persistent chest pain (more than 2 weeks) were reported in the diathermy group. There were 9 cases of partial and asymptomatic pneumothorax that resolved without treatment or prolonged hospital stays. Conclusion Dissection of the sympathetic nerve is accomplished more reliably and with better visualization with the ultrasonic scalpel. Peripheral lesions in lung parenchyma and adjacent tissues (intercostal vessels and nerves) are avoided, as is Horner syndrome, which can be caused by dispersion of heat. Use of the ultrasonic scalpel would also lead to a lower incidence of postoperative neuralgia.

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