Successful treatment of facial blushing by endoscopic transthoracic sympathicotomy

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Facial blushing is one of the cardinal symptoms of social phobia and has a strong negative impact on the quality of life. Traditional therapeutic options are psychotherapy and pharmacological treatment. The results of these treatments on facial blushing are poorly documented. To investigate whether endoscopic bilateral transection of the upper thoracic sympathetic chain is efficient in the treatment of facial blushing, 244 consecutive patients were treated with bilateral endoscopic transthoracic sympathicotomy (ETS). The results were evaluated by questionnaire and symptoms assessed with visual analogue scales (0-10). There was no mortality nor conversion to open surgery. No Horner's syndrome occurred. Two patients with postoperative pneumothorax were treated with intercostal drainage and one small pulmonary embolus was detected. The questionnaire was answered by 219 patients (90%) a mean (± SEM) of 8 months (±9 days) after surgery. Facial blushing (mean ± SEM) was reduced from 8.7 ± 0.1 to 2.2 ± 0.2, P < 0.0001, by the operation. Heart palpitations in stressful situations were also reduced (3.7 ± 0.3 to 1.3 ± 0.1, P < 0.0001). The quality of life was substantially improved. The main side-effect was redistribution of sweating from the upper to the lower part of the body. Increased sweating of the trunk occurred in 75% of the patients. Overall, 85% of the patients were satisfied with the result and 15% were to some degree dissatisfied, mainly due to insufficient effect, but only four patients (2%) regretted the operation. As this is an open study, the results must be viewed with caution. ETS, however, appears to be an efficient, safe and minimally invasive surgical method for the treatment of facial blushing.

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