Anatomy, Back, Lumbar Sympathetic Chain


Article Author:
Raghu Jetti


Article Editor:
Srinivasa Rao Bolla


Editors In Chief:
Rodrigo Kuljis
Oleg Chernyshev
Aninda Acharya


Managing Editors:
Avais Raja
Orawan Chaigasame
Carrie Smith
Abdul Waheed
Khalid Alsayouri
Frank Smeeks
Kristina Soman-Faulkner
Radia Jamil
Patrick Le
Sobhan Daneshfar
Anoosh Zafar Gondal
Saad Nazir
William Gossman
Pritesh Sheth
Hassam Zulfiqar
Navid Mahabadi
Steve Bhimji
John Shell
Matthew Varacallo
Heba Mahdy
Ahmad Malik
Mark Pellegrini
James Hughes
Beata Beatty
Nazia Sadiq
Hajira Basit
Phillip Hynes
Tehmina Warsi


Updated:
4/2/2019 12:53:09 PM

Introduction

The sympathetic chain is a ganglionated chain present bilaterally extending from the base of the skull to the coccyx. It divides into cervical, thoracic, lumbar and sacral segments. The two side chains fuse at the ganglion in front of the sacrococcygeal junction. In this article, the lumbar sympathetic chain is discussed in detail below.

Location and relations: It presents four interconnected ganglia, on either side. Lumbar sympathetic chain lies anterolateral to the bodies of lumbar vertebrae, deep to the medial aspect of the psoas major muscle. 

  • Superiorly it is continuous with the thoracic sympathetic chain passing behind the medial arcuate ligament of a diaphragm 
  • Inferiorly it passes behind the common iliac vessels over the sacral ala and continuous with the sacral sympathetic chain
  • On the right side, it lies posterior to inferior vena cava
  • On the left, it lies postero-lateral to the aortic lymph nodes

Structure and Function

The lumbar sympathetic chain receives input from the first, second and the third lumbar sometimes are connected by the white rami communicantes,  which contain the preganglionic neurons from the lateral horn of the spinal cord. 

All lumbar spinal nerves close to the beginning of their ventral rami join by grey rami communicantes from the ganglia that contain postganglionic neurons. They supply the skin and vessels in the respective territory. Grey rami may leave the sympathetic trunk between the ganglia to form plexuses around the neighboring arteries to reach the target organs. Sympathetic trunk branches accompany lumbar, aorta, common, internal and external iliac arteries. The adrenal medulla is a unique structure in the body that it receives supply from the preganglionic neurons from T10 to L1 spinal segments.     

The non-relayed preganglionic neurons emerge from the medial side of the sympathetic trunk as lumbar splanchnic nerves. Four lumbar splanchnic nerves arise from sympathetic trunk to join the coeliac, inferior mesenteric and superior hypogastric plexuses. First lumbar splanchnic nerve arises from the first ganglion gives branches to coeliac, renal and inferior mesenteric plexuses. The second nerve comes from the second ganglion joins the intermesenteric or inferior mesenteric plexuses. The third nerve emerges from the third or fourth ganglion joins the superior hypogastric plexuses. The fourth nerve is given from the fourth ganglion and joins with the lower part of superior hypogastric plexus.

Microscopic structure: Autonomic ganglia contain the ganglionic neurons, satellite glial cells, and small intensely fluorescent cells. Ganglionic neurons form many axodendritic synapses with preganglionic axons. Satellite glial cells are closely associated with neurons; they may influence synaptic transmission. Small intensely fluorescent cells possess several granules that contain noradrenaline, dopamine, and serotonin. Sympathetic ganglia contain multipolar neurons, preganglionic sympathetic axons synapse with many postganglionic neurons which is responsible for the widespread effects of the sympathetic activity.

Preganglionic sympathetic neurons release acetylcholine as the neurotransmitter, whereas noradrenaline is the neurotransmitter in postganglionic neurons. The postganglionic neurons are non-myelinated; they reach the target organs in several ways. They will return to the spinal nerves through grey rami communicantes, then distribute through ventral and dorsal rami to blood vessels, sweat glands, and hairs in their territory. In addition, they also travel via a medial branch to the viscera or innervate blood vessels or form plexuses on them to reach their periphery. The majority of the fibers accompany arteries and ducts to reach the distant effectors.

The postganglionic sympathetic fibers are vasoconstricting to blood vessels, secretomotor to sweat glands, and motor to arrector pili muscle. The fibers which follow the motor nerves to skeletal muscle are a vasodilator. The fibers which reach the viscera are responsible for general vasoconstriction, regulation of glandular secretion, and inhibition of smooth muscle contraction in the gastrointestinal system.

General visceral afferent fibers from the viscera and blood vessels follow their efferent fibers. They are the peripheral processes of pseudo-unipolar neurons situated in the dorsal root ganglion of thoracic and upper two lumbar spinal nerves. Visceral afferent fibers which enter the spinal cord through spinal nerve roots terminate in the gray matter. They form connections with CNS that controls autonomic reflex functions. Visceral pain is felt near the viscera or in a cutaneous area or other tissue whose somatic afferents enter the spinal segments that receiving visceral afferents from viscera, the explanation underlying the referred pain.

Embryology

Sympathetic ganglia and nerves except the preganglionic neurons form from the neural crest cells. During neurulation, the neural crest cells migrate to cranial, vagal, trunk and lumbosacral areas. Trunk neural crest population gives rise to sympathetic ganglia. Neural crest cells migrate ventrally to the area of future paravertebral and prevertebral plexuses forming the sympathetic chain and major ganglia around the ventral branches of the abdominal aorta.

Blood Supply and Lymphatics

Medial branches of the lumbar arteries will give ganglionic branches that supply the sympathetic ganglia and trunk. Veins drain into the corresponding lumbar veins. Lymphatics drain into lateral aortic lymph nodes.

Physiologic Variants

Lumbar sympathetic chain shows variations in its position and number of ganglia. Rami communicantes of lumbar sympathetic chain crossed the common iliac arteries and joined in front of first sacral vertebra.[1] The number of ganglia in a single chain varied from 2 to 6 with a mean of 3.9.[2] Sympathetic chain passed posterior to the crus of a diaphragm in the majority of the cases, in a few instances, it passed behind the medial arcuate ligament.[3] Hyperactivity of the sympathetic nervous system could be the cause of reflex sympathetic dystrophy/complex regional pain syndrome.

Surgical Considerations

Conventionally, the lumbar sympathetic chain is accessible through transperitoneal and retroperitoneal approaches. However, a novel, minimally invasive, a lateral peritoneal approach was also found safe and effective for sectioning of the sympathetic chain.[4] Retroperitoneoscopic resection technique was also successful in lumbar sympathectomy,[5] although the lumbar sympathetic chain is at risk while approaching an anterior lumbar spine through retroperitoneal oblique approach between psoas major muscle and aorta.[6] During chemical lumbar sympathectomy, the puncture needle tip is placed in front of psoas major muscle inactivating agent is injected around the sympathetic chain. This procedure is associated with ureteropelvic damage, hence the introduction of selective chemical lumbar sympathectomy in which gray rami communicantes are the targets.[7]

Clinical Significance

A sympathetic block is performed to treat several vascular disorders,[8] lumbar sympathectomy is indicated to improve blood circulation in vasospastic disorders like Raynaud disease.[9] It is advised to improve distal circulation to the extent that amputation can be avoided and in cases where vascular reconstruction is not available, such as Buerger disease.[10] It is the choice of treatment in idiopathic plantar hyperhidrosis,[11] frostbite,[12] reflex sympathetic dystrophy and complex regional pain syndrome.[13][8] The lumbar sympathectomy destroys sensory and vasomotor fibers as evidenced by relief of rest pain and increased blood flow.[14]  For the sympathetic block, the medial border of the psoas major acts as a guide for needle placement at the level of L3 where there is consistency in its relation in people with spondylophytes. Complications of the procedure are significantly reduced with radiography guided needle insertion.[15]


  • Image 2373 Not availableImage 2373 Not available
    Contributed by Gray's Anatomy Plates
Attributed To: Contributed by Gray's Anatomy Plates

Interested in Participating?

We are looking for contributors to author, edit, and peer review our vast library of review articles and multiple choice questions. In as little as 2-3 hours you can make a significant contribution to your specialty. In return for a small amount of your time, you will receive free access to all content and you will be published as an author or editor in eBooks, apps, online CME/CE activities, and an online Learning Management System for students, teachers, and program directors that allows access to review materials in over 500 specialties.

Improve Content - Become an Author or Editor

This is an academic project designed to provide inexpensive peer-reviewed Apps, eBooks, and very soon an online CME/CE system to help students identify weaknesses and improve knowledge. We would like you to consider being an author or editor. Please click here to learn more. Thank you for you for your interest, the StatPearls Publishing Editorial Team.

Anatomy, Back, Lumbar Sympathetic Chain - Questions

Take a quiz of the questions on this article.

Take Quiz
What is the anatomical location of the lumbar sympathetic chain?



Click Your Answer Below


Would you like to access teaching points and more information on this topic?

Improve Content - Become an Author or Editor and get free access to the entire database, free eBooks, as well as free CME/CE as it becomes available. If interested, please click on "Sign Up" to register.

Purchase- Want immediate access to questions, answers, and teaching points? They can be purchased above at Apps and eBooks.


Sign Up
A 16-year-old boy presents to the clinic to follow up after a diagnosis of hyperhidrosis 2 months ago due to recurrent bacterial infection of the feet. The patient complains about no improvement in his symptoms despite his adherence with the medicine. Surgical ablation is considered. Which of the following structures is most appropriate for this treatment?



Click Your Answer Below


Would you like to access teaching points and more information on this topic?

Improve Content - Become an Author or Editor and get free access to the entire database, free eBooks, as well as free CME/CE as it becomes available. If interested, please click on "Sign Up" to register.

Purchase- Want immediate access to questions, answers, and teaching points? They can be purchased above at Apps and eBooks.


Sign Up
A 35-year-old man presents at a clinic with complaints of discoloration of the skin and pain in the feet. The patient is a chronic smoker. On examination dorsalis pedis artery pulse is very weak. Color doppler study reveals sluggish blood flow in the distal arteries of the lower limb. A diagnosis of Buerger disease (thromboangiitis obliterans) is made. The provider advises for surgical intervention. Resection of which of the following anatomical structure is most likely to improve blood circulation to the lower limb?



Click Your Answer Below


Would you like to access teaching points and more information on this topic?

Improve Content - Become an Author or Editor and get free access to the entire database, free eBooks, as well as free CME/CE as it becomes available. If interested, please click on "Sign Up" to register.

Purchase- Want immediate access to questions, answers, and teaching points? They can be purchased above at Apps and eBooks.


Sign Up

Anatomy, Back, Lumbar Sympathetic Chain - References

References

Jain P,Raza K,Singh S,Kumari C,Kaler S,Rani N, Lumbar sympathetic chain: anatomical variation and clinical perspectives. La Clinica terapeutica. 2016 Nov-Dec;     [PubMed]
Murata Y,Takahashi K,Yamagata M,Takahashi Y,Shimada Y,Moriya H, Variations in the number and position of human lumbar sympathetic ganglia and rami communicantes. Clinical anatomy (New York, N.Y.). 2003 Mar;     [PubMed]
Gandhi KR,Verma VK,Chavan SK,Joshi SD,Joshi SS, The morphology of lumbar sympathetic trunk in humans: a cadaveric study. Folia morphologica. 2013 Aug;     [PubMed]
Rodgers SD,Engler JA,Perin NL, A novel approach to the lumbar sympathetic chain: lateral access. Neurosurgical focus. 2013 Jul;     [PubMed]
Rieger R,Pedevilla S, Retroperitoneoscopic lumbar sympathectomy for the treatment of plantar hyperhidrosis: technique and preliminary findings. Surgical endoscopy. 2007 Jan;     [PubMed]
Janoff KA,Phinney ES,Porter JM, Lumbar sympathectomy for lower extremity vasospasm. American journal of surgery. 1985 Jul;     [PubMed]
Perez-Burkhardt JL,Gonzalez-Fajardo JA,Martin JF,Carpintero Mediavilla LA,Mateo Gutierrez AM, Lumbar sympathectomy as isolated technique for the treatment of lower limbs chronic ischemia. The Journal of cardiovascular surgery. 1999 Feb;     [PubMed]
Lima SO,de Santana VR,Valido DP,de Andrade RLB,Fontes LM,Leite VHO,Neto JM,Santos JM,Varjão LL,Reis FP, Retroperitoneoscopic lumbar sympathectomy for plantar hyperhidrosis. Journal of vascular surgery. 2017 Dec;     [PubMed]
Taylor MS, Lumbar epidural sympathectomy for frostbite injuries of the feet. Military medicine. 1999 Aug;     [PubMed]
Bandyk DF,Johnson BL,Kirkpatrick AF,Novotney ML,Back MR,Schmacht DC, Surgical sympathectomy for reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndromes. Journal of vascular surgery. 2002 Feb;     [PubMed]
Bale R, [Ganglion block. When and how?]. Der Radiologe. 2015 Oct;     [PubMed]
Mahatthanatrakul A,Itthipanichpong T,Ratanakornphan C,Numkarunarunrote N,Singhatanadgige W,Yingsakmongkol W,Limthongkul W, Relation of lumbar sympathetic chain to the open corridor of retroperitoneal oblique approach to lumbar spine: an MRI study. European spine journal : official publication of the European Spine Society, the European Spinal Deformity Society, and the European Section of the Cervical Spine Research Society. 2018 Oct 16;     [PubMed]
Coventry BJ,Walsh JA, Cutaneous innervation in man before and after lumbar sympathectomy: evidence for interruption of both sensory and vasomotor nerve fibres. ANZ journal of surgery. 2003 Jan-Feb;     [PubMed]
Wang WH,Zhang L,Dong GX,Zhao J,Li X, Targeting Gray Rami Communicantes in Selective Chemical Lumbar Sympathectomy. Journal of visualized experiments : JoVE. 2019 Jan 10;     [PubMed]
Feigl GC,Kastner M,Ulz H,Breschan C,Dreu M,Likar R, Topography of the lumbar sympathetic trunk in normal lumbar spines and spines with spondylophytes. British journal of anaesthesia. 2011 Feb     [PubMed]

Disclaimer

The intent of StatPearls is to provide practice questions and explanations to assist you in identifying and resolving knowledge deficits. These questions and explanations are not intended to be a source of the knowledge base of all of medicine, nor is it intended to be a board or certification review of Neurology. The authors or editors do not warrant the information is complete or accurate. The reader is encouraged to verify each answer and explanation in several references. All drug indications and dosages should be verified before administration.

StatPearls offers the most comprehensive database of free multiple-choice questions with explanations and short review chapters ever developed. This system helps physicians, medical students, dentists, nurses, pharmacists, and allied health professionals identify education deficits and learn new concepts. StatPearls is not a board or certification review system for Neurology, it is a learning system that you can use to help improve your knowledge base of medicine for life-long learning. StatPearls will help you identify your weaknesses so that when you are ready to study for a board or certification exam in Neurology, you will already be prepared.

Our content is updated continuously through a multi-step peer review process that will help you be prepared and review for a thorough knowledge of Neurology. When it is time for the Neurology board and certification exam, you will already be ready. Besides online study quizzes, we also publish our peer-reviewed content in eBooks and mobile Apps. We also offer inexpensive CME/CE, so our content can be used to attain education credits while you study Neurology.