The authors describe their technique of videoscopic (VS) lumbar sympathectomy (LSE), compared to the open LSE. From 1992 to 1994, 21 open and 19 VS LSE were performed. The indication was reflex sympathetic dystrophy in 17 and arterial insufficiency in 23 patients. In the open LSE the mean duration of anaesthesia was 80 min (55-115) and of surgery 37 min (25-65). The length of the chain removed varied from 1 to 3 ganglia (6-7 cm). Complications were noted in 5 patients: 1 pneumonia, 2 superficial wound problems and 2 cases of postsympathectomy neuralgia. Hospital stay of patients with RSD varied from 2 to 5 days. Of the 19 attempts to perform a VS LSE 4 had to be converted to the open technique. The duration of anesthesia was 150 min (90-280) and of surgery 92 min (45-240). Lengths of chain removed varied from 1 to several ganglia (6-7 cm). A pneumoperitoneum was present in 10 procedures, but a Veress needle was placed in only 4 of these. Complications were present in 9 patients: 1 important subcutaneous emphysema, 1 severe costal pain, 2 neuralgia, 1 temporary psoas dysfunction, 1 haemorrhage from a lumbar vein with conversion to the open technique and 3 minor superficial wound problems. The hospital stay ranged from 2 to 5 days. This study suggests that the VS LSE has no benefit over the open technique as far as the operative and early results are concerned. Whether this technique avoids some of the late disadvantages of a lumbotomy remains to be seen.