Periarterial sympathectomy is a treatment option for patients with systemic sclerosis (SSc) suffering from digital vasculopathy. Despite potential benefits of ulcer healing, pain improvement, and amputation prevention, this operation appears to be infrequently performed. The aims of our study are as follows: (1) to assess national digital sympathectomy rates in patients with SSc and (2) to improve our understanding of referring physicians' perceptions of operative management and access to hand surgeons. Our hypothesis is that rheumatologists' practices largely influence their referral patterns for digital sympathectomy.To determine the rates and demographics of hospitalized patients with SSc who had undergone digital sympathectomy, we queried the Nationwide Inpatient Sample from 2006 to 2010. Additionally, we mailed a self-administered survey to a national sample of 500 board-certified rheumatologists to elicit their practice patterns and perceptions of digital sympathectomy. Using logistic regression, we analyzed potential predictor variables associated with rheumatologists performing the following: (1) routinely counseling patients about digital sympathectomy and (2) expressing the desire to refer these patients for operative evaluation.Of 348,539 hospitalizations associated with a diagnosis of SSc, only 0.2% were for digital sympathectomy. Our questionnaire revealed that only 50% of rheumatologists routinely counseled, whereas 67% expressed the desire to refer. Factors associated with increased rheumatologists' interest in surgical management for patients with SSc included positive perception of the operation's efficacy, comfort with postoperative management, and interdisciplinary relationship with a hand surgeon.Critical components to increasing appropriate utilization of digital sympathectomy include enhancing rheumatologists' understanding of the operation, comfort with postoperative management, and promoting strong, interdisciplinary relationships with hand surgeons. Increasing education and awareness, as well as establishing a solid referral network of hand surgeons may thereby improve patient access to digital sympathectomy.
View details for DOI 10.1097/SAP.0000000000000614
View details for PubMedID 26418780