What is a chemical sympathectomy?

A chemical sympathectomy is an injection on to the sympathetic nerves which run down the front of the backbone, close to, but outside the spinal column.

Why am I having injections?

This particular group of nerves, called the sympathetic nerves, can sometimes give rise to pain in the limbs, and often other sensations such as feeling cold and clammy, and changes in colour can also occur. These nerves also control the blood supply to the limbs.

What is injected?

These nerves can be permanently numbed, by injecting a drug called Phenol or Alchohol directly on to them.

Where is it done?

The procedure is carried out in the Hospital in the operating theatres or in radiology department. A letter with directions and instructions will be sent to you.

How is it done?

  • You will be asked to wear a gown
  • A small needle called a cannula may be put into the back of your hand
  • You will be asked to lie on your stomach on the x-ray table
  • The area is cleaned with antiseptic
  • X-ray pictures are taken throughout the procedure to direct the needle on to the nerve
  • The consultant will numb the area with local anaesthetic before putting the injection onto the nerve
  • Sedation is not normally used for this procedure

How long will I be in hospital?

Although the procedure itself takes 10-15 minutes you will be asked to stay for between 1-2 hours before you are allowed home. You will need someone to pick you up and stay with you overnight. If this cannot be arranged an overnight stay in hospital may be necessary.

Can I take my usual tablets?

Take your usual tablets in the morning and bring them with you. Patients with diabetes and those taking warfarin will be given individual information.

Can I eat and drink?

Please do not have any food 6 hours prior to your appointment time. You may have clear fluids up to 2 hours before your appointment.

Can I drive home?

For safety reasons you are asked not to drive on the day of the procedure or the following day.

What can go wrong?

  • Local bruising may occur and this settles in a couple of days
  • It is normal to have some discomfort at the entry site of the injection for a couple of days
  • However if the pain is severe or you feel unwell you should contact your GP(General Practitioner)