Thoracic outlet syndrome is the name for a group of disorders that can occur in the thoracic outlet, a region located between the shoulder and neck. Due to a compression of nerves, arteries, and veins, thoracic outlet syndrome (also known as TOS) can result in numbness, weakened muscles, or pain in the shoulders and arms. Though the condition is mostly harmless, thoracic outlet syndrome can cause serious complications if left untreated. TOS can be broken down into neurogenic TOS and vascular TOS, the latter of which includes arterial thoracic outlet syndrome, the most serious form of the disorder.
The thoracic surgeons at the Thoracic Outlet Surgery Center of Excellence are experts in dealing with all forms of thoracic outlet syndrome, and can help patients regain strength and mobility in their affected shoulders. If you suffer from any of the various forms of TOS, please contact our doctors today by calling 888.336.0998.Contact Us Now!
What is Arterial Thoracic Outlet Syndrome?
Though arterial thoracic outlet syndrome accounts for only 1% of all cases of thoracic outlet syndrome, it is by far the most dangerous form of the disorder. If left untreated, arterial TOS can result in permanent arm swelling, gangrene (due to lack of blood flow from the thoracic outlet), blood clots, and more.
Arterial TOS is caused when an artery located in the thoracic outlet becomes compressed. Usually, this compression is due to congenital features (a condition existing at birth), such as the presence of an extra rib. An extra rib reduces the size of the thoracic outlet, making it easier for the region to become compressed and painful.
Who is Affected by Arterial Thoracic Outlet Syndrome?
As mentioned, arterial TOS is the rarest form of thoracic outlet syndrome, accounting for merely 1% of all cases. Unlike other forms of thoracic outlet syndrome, some of which are more common in men and others in women, arterial TOS tends to occur equally in both sexes.
Arterial TOS is most common in individuals with a cervical rib, which causes compression of the subclavian artery. Typically, the condition affects young adults and people over the age of 50. Learn how arterial thoracic outlet syndrome is tested and diagnosed on our testing and diagnosis pageCLICK HERE TO REQUEST AN APPOINTMENT ONLINE
Treatment for Arterial Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
Before recommending surgery, most doctors will try more conservative treatment methods, such as physical therapy and pain medications. During physical therapy, therapists will work at reducing compression in the thoracic outlet, thereby restoring blood flow, strengthening muscles, and increasing the range of motion in the shoulder and arms. Typically, most patients who undergo physical therapy notice a reduction in the severity of their symptoms.
If physical therapy doesn’t work in reducing the symptoms of arterial TOS, doctors may prescribe pain medications for a patient. In addition, over-the-counter medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen can also be effective at reducing the pain felt by sufferers of arterial TOS.
Lastly, if no other treatment option has worked, surgeons can perform surgery to reduce pressure in the thoracic outlet. At the Thoracic Outlet Surgery Center of Excellence, our expert surgeons use state-of-the-art technology and instruments to relieve the pain caused by arterial TOS.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What does thoracic outlet surgery involve?
A: Video-assisted thoracoscopic sympathectomy is performed when a patient experiences pressure in his or her thoracic outlet. The procedure involves resectioning the first rib, thereby lessening the compression placed upon the subclavian artery. The procedure utilizes high-tech surgical instruments and tools to provide patients with the best and most effective surgical care possible.
Q: Who is most at risk of developing arterial thoracic outlet syndrome?
A: The various forms of TOS affect different demographics. Typically, other forms of TOS affect women more than men, or vice versa. Arterial TOS is unique in that is affects genders equally. The condition particularly affects young adults and individuals older than 50.
Q: How can I reduce the risk of developing arterial TOS?
A: Unfortunately, since arterial TOS is mainly caused by an extra rib, there isn’t much a patient can do to prevent the disorder from occurring. However, the condition is treatable through a variety of methods, most of which can be provided by a thoracic surgeon.
If you experience pain or stiffness in the shoulder and neck, simple exercises can be good ways to temporarily provide a sense of relief.
Contact a Thoracic Surgeon Today
Patients with arterial thoracic outlet syndrome should not wait to seek treatment. This specific form of thoracic outlet syndrome can be incredibly damaging and painful if left untreated. To get in contact with one of the expert thoracic surgeons at the Thoracic Outlet Surgery Center of Excellence, please call 888.336.0998.
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