Due to the uniqueness of every patient and the symptoms of his or her condition, accurately testing and diagnosing thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS) can be difficult. Some people with TOS may often experience severe pain, while others feel only a slight discomfort. Without a professional opinion, definitively diagnosing thoracic outlet syndrome can be very challenging. Luckily, the thoracic specialists at the Thoracic Outlet Surgery Center of Excellence are experts in testing and treating all forms of thoracic outlet syndrome.
If you experience symptoms characteristic of thoracic outlet syndrome, please contact our thoracic experts today. Early treatment of the condition can be extremely helpful in reducing the severity of the symptoms and potential complications. To schedule a consultation with one of the specialists at the Thoracic Outlet Surgery Center of Excellence, please contact us today by calling 888.336.0998.
Testing and Diagnosing Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
During an initial consultation, a thoracic specialist will perform a physical exam on a patient. This physical exam looks for outward signs of the condition, such as depression in the shoulder (a sign of compression of the thoracic outlet), swelling of the arm, and reduced range of motion. If a patient cannot move his or her shoulders and arms, it’s possible that the patient may suffer from neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrome, a specific form of the condition that limits range of motion in the arm.
During this physical exam, patients will be examined in different positions and be asked to move their arms, shoulders, and neck. These movements can help thoracic specialists determine if a patient truly has thoracic outlet syndrome, and if so, what specific version of the condition. These movements are specifically designed to reproduce the symptoms of thoracic outlet syndrome and rule out other conditions that may have the same symptoms.
If you go in for an examination, a thoracic specialist may also inquire about your medical history and family history. If you have a family history of thoracic outlet syndrome, then chances are high that you may also suffer from the condition. A doctor will also ask about your occupation and physical activities that you perform. Jobs that require repetitive movements of the arms (such as stacking boxes) can increase the likelihood of developing TOS, and certain sports can increase the chance of thoracic outlet syndrome. In particular, the repetitive actions involved in swimming, volleyball, or pitching can cause TOS to form.
Imaging and Nerve Study Testing
In addition to a physical examination and asking about your medical history, a thoracic doctor may also perform the following tests when attempting to diagnose thoracic outlet syndrome. Unlike a physical exam, these tests look inside the body to determine what is causing your symptoms.
X-ray: X-rays are incredibly useful in determining whether or not a patient has a cervical rib. Located above the highest rib, a cervical rib is an extra rib found in a small minority of people. The presence of this rib can place pressure on the thoracic outlet.
Nerve Conduction Study: These tests are designed to evaluate the function of a patient’s nerves. During a nerve conduction study, a doctor will send small electrical impulses to various parts of your body. If a doctor discovers an inability to transmit nerve impulses through the thoracic outlet, there’s a good chance a patient has neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrome.
Blood tests: Bloods tests can be used to determine if a patient suffers from vascular thoracic outlet syndrome.
Ultrasound: An ultrasound creates images of a patient’s body through the use of sound waves. Ultrasounds are good ways of determining if a patient has the vascular form of TOS.
Other imaging tests thoracic surgeons use to diagnosis thoracic outlet syndrome include CT scans, MRIs, and arteriographies and venographies.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Who should perform tests to determine if I have thoracic outlet syndrome?
A: Testing for thoracic outlet syndrome should be performed by a thoracic surgeon. At the Thoracic Outlet Surgery Center of Excellence, our specialists have attended prestigious schools such as UC Berkeley, New York Medical College, and Harvard University, making them the perfect doctors to diagnosis and treat thoracic outlet syndrome.
Q: What happens if a doctor determines I have thoracic outlet syndrome?
A: Though TOS is not preventable, it is a highly treatable condition. Patients who discover they suffer from thoracic outlet syndrome can choose among a variety of options to help deal with their condition. To read about specific treatments and remedies for TOS, please read our treatments page.
Call a Thoracic Expert Today
At the Thoracic Outlet Surgery Center of Excellence, our surgeons are dedicated to diagnosing and treating thoracic outlet syndrome. If you feel as though you may suffer from TOS, please call our thoracic experts today. Using a variety of tests, our doctors can diagnosis and treat all form of thoracic outlet syndrome. Call us today at 888.336.0998 to schedule a consultation.
Next, read about what causes thoracic outlet syndrome.