Type of Surgery

Information

Doctor Certified

Last updated: 11/24/2009

Purpose

The autonomic nervous system controls such involuntary body functions as breathing, sweating, and blood pressure. It is subdivided into two components, the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous systems.

The sympathetic nervous system speeds...

the heart rate, narrows (constricts) blood vessels, and raises blood pressure. Blood pressure is controlled by means of nerve cells that run through sheaths around the arteries. The sympathetic nervous system can be described as the "fight or flight" system because it allows humans to respond to danger by fighting off an attacker or running away. When danger threatens, the sympathetic nervous system increases heart and respiratory rates and blood flow to muscles, and decreases blood flow to such other areas as skin, digestive tract, and limb veins. The net effect is an increase in blood pressure.

Sympathectomy is performed to relieve intermittent constricting of blood vessels (ischemia) when the fingers, toes, ears, or nose are exposed to cold (Raynaud's phenomenon). In Raynaud's phenomenon, the affected extremities turn white, then blue, and red as the blood supply is cut off. The color changes are accompanied by numbness, tingling, burning, and pain. Normal color and feeling are restored when heat is applied. The condition sometimes occurs without direct cause but is more often caused by an underlying medical condition, such as rheumatoid arthritis. Sympathectomy is usually less effective when Raynaud's syndrome is caused by an underlying medical condition. Narrowed blood vessels in the legs that cause painful cramping (claudication) are also treated with sympathectomy.

Sympathectomy may be helpful in treating reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD), a condition that sometimes develops after injury. In RSD, the affected limb is painful (causalgia) and swollen. The color, temperature, and texture of the skin changes. These symptoms are related to prolonged and excessive sympathetic nervous system activity.

Sympathectomy is also effective in treating excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis) of the palms, armpits, or face.


NEXT:
PREVIOUS:

Advertisement

In this video, the basic building block of the nervous system, the neuron, is described. Countless neurons are joined and organized to form the nervous system, also described in this animation.

Related Videos

How the Body Works : Anatomy of a Nerve

An artist's representation of what nerves and nerve bundles look like at the microscopic level. It also shows how the anatomy of a nerve allows it to transmit electrical signals and communicate with other neurons (nerves).

Face Transplant (Health Guru)

This video shows before and after pictures of the women who received the first full face transplant in the United States. It recounts her story and how she has overcome some of these challenges through face transplant. Note, this video may be disturbing to some viewers due to its graphic nature.

Endoscopic Endonasal Approach — Minimally Invasive Brain Surgery

Much of the difficulty in brain surgery recovery comes with healing of the skull and covering of the brain. This video shows that a tumor in a particular location can be removed by entering through the nose, rather than the skull. The endoscopic endonasal approach or EEA is associated with rapid recovery times compared to most other types of brain surgery.

How superficial thrombophlebitis develops

Superficial thrombophlebitis is a term used to describe a vein that is inflamed and close to the surface of the skin (superficial). This narrated animation explains superficial thrombophlebitis and how it can cause pain and minor blood clots.

Search

Other Information

Sympathectomy is a surgical procedure that destroys nerves in the sympathetic nervous system. The procedure is done to increase blood flow and decrease long-term pain in certain diseases that cause narrowed blood vessels. It can also be used to decrease excessive sweating. This surgical procedure cuts or destroys the sympathetic ganglia, collections of nerve cell bodies in clusters along the thoracic or lumbar spinal cord.


From http://www.answers.com/topic/sympathectomy

Other Information

Select comparative data from 1999 to 2006 include an 11 percent increase in the number of neurosurgeons with full-time academic appointments and a 6 percent increase in the number of female neurosurgeons.


From: AANS

Find a Qualified Specialist

Looking for a specialist?

Please enter your zip code.