Imagine praying that you wouldn’t blush or overly perspire numerous times every day. Some people spend much of their waking hours hoping to avoid the embarrassment of these uncontrollable body responses. They feel trapped and limited during basic daily activities such as grocery shopping or in their ability to progress in their career.
There are various medications and cognitive therapies to treat excess blushing. Additionally, laser treatments or botox can treat excess sweating--which also is known by its official medical name of hyperhydrosis--but if these therapies don’t work or have unacceptable side effects, then there is a surgery that might help. It too has it own risks and success rates but it can be an option to consider for those who are desperate for a solution.
Endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy (ETS) is a surgery that destroys the nerves that stimulate blushing or sweating in the hand, face and underarm areas. These nerves are part of the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the “flight” or “fight” response in our bodies. The nerves that control these actions run along each side of the spine in a long chain.
There are nerve bundles in the chains called ganglion, which are cut in very specific spots depending on which sympathetic response is being changed. The ganglion involved for blushing and hyperhydrosis are in the upper part of the thoracic spine above the shoulder blades and requires the skills of an experienced surgeon at performing ETS.
ETS is performed under general anesthesia as a laparoscopic surgery. The surgeon cuts a small incision on the side of the chest wall under the armpit. Instruments and tools to visually locate and cut or clamp the nerve ganglion are passed through the incision. To move the lung out of the way, carbon dioxide is passed through a tube into the chest space. The same procedure is repeated on both sides of the spine.
All surgeries carry risk of infection, bleeding, damage to other structures and death.