At the Thoracic Outlet Surgery Center of Excellence, we strive to answer any questions that our patients may have. Though the thoracic outlet itself may be complex, we want to make things as simple as possible for our patients. The following are some of the most frequently asked questions about the thoracic outlet and thoracic outlet syndrome.
If you have any additional questions that aren’t covered in this FAQ, please feel free to contact the Thoracic Outlet Surgery Center of Excellence by calling 888.336.0998.Contact Us Now!
Q: What is the thoracic outlet?
A: The thoracic outlet is a region of the body located between the neck and shoulder. Located within the outlet are nerves, arteries, and veins. If the thoracic outlet is compressed, whether through injury, poor posture, or congenital defects, thoracic outlet syndrome can occur.
Q: Is thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS) serious?
A: If left untreated, thoracic outlet syndrome can result in extremely serious complications. If a vein or artery within the thoracic outlet is compressed, lack of blood flow could result in gangrene. Additionally, permanent swelling can occur in the arm if no treatment is provided for thoracic outlet syndrome.
Q: What causes TOS?
A: Thoracic outlet syndrome can be caused by a variety of conditions. Some of the most common causes of the disorder include:
- Anatomical defects
- Repetitive activities
- Poor posture
- Physical trauma
An extra rib present at birth (known as a cervical rib) usually results in the compression of the thoracic outlet and the formation of thoracic syndrome.
Q: What is the best way to deal with thoracic outlet syndrome?
A: There are many treatment methods available to deal with TOS, including physical therapy, weight loss, and medications, but the most effective treatment method is through surgery. Minimally invasive first rib resection is a procedure that alleviates pressure on the thoracic outlet by reshaping and resectioning part of the rib.
Q: How can I tell if I have an extra rib causing thoracic outlet syndrome?
A: The easiest way to determine if you have a cervical rib is by contacting the experts at the Thoracic Outlet Surgery Center of Excellence. Using x-rays, CT scans, and more, these thoracic specialists can easily determine if a patient’s TOS is caused by an extra rib.
Q: How can I test for thoracic outlet syndrome?
A: A thoracic specialist can perform many tests and diagnosis whether or not a patient suffers from thoracic outlet syndrome. A simple physical exam is sometimes used to determine the cause and severity of the condition. Additionally, a patient may undergo imaging and nerve study testing to determine the full extent of their condition.
Q: Is there any way to prevent thoracic outlet syndrome?
A: Unfortunately, TOS cannot be prevented, though it is easily treatable. Prior to surgery or any other form of treatment, patients can perform simple exercises to reduce the chance of thoracic outlet syndrome from occurring. Things like stretching the neck and arms can be extremely useful in reducing the severity of the symptoms.
Q: What’s are the differences between neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrome and vascular thoracic outlet syndrome?
A: The neurogenic and vascular forms of TOS both involve the compression of the thoracic outlet, though the specific items being compressed and the resulting symptoms can vary. In neurogenic TOS, a bundle of nerves called the brachial plexus is compressed, causing numbness of the arm and reduced range of motion. In vascular TOS, either the subclavian vein or artery is compressed, leading to shoulder pain, swelling, and a feeling of weakness in the arms.
Q: What’s the best way to prepare for thoracic outlet surgery?
A: There are a few general guidelines patients are encouraged to follow prior to undergoing thoracic outlet surgery.
- Be in the best possible shape
- Follow all instructions provided by your surgeon
- Bring an accompanying adult to drive you home
Following these guidelines and any other given by your doctor will help ensure a fast, smooth, and easy surgery and recovery time!
Q: Does thoracic outlet surgery hurt?
A: VATS first rib resection surgery is performed under anesthesia, which means that patients will essentially be “asleep” during the whole procedure! Patients who experience soreness after the procedure has been completed may be prescribed pain medication to help deal with the discomfort.
Q: Who is most at risk of developing TOS?
A: The different forms of thoracic outlet syndrome affect different demographics. The neurogenic form of the disorder affects women three times more than men, while subdivisions of the vascular form affect men more than women (venous thoracic outlet disorder) or both genders equally (arterial thoracic outlet syndrome).
Contact a Thoracic Specialist Today
If you suffer from thoracic outlet syndrome and want relief, the surgeons at the Thoracic Surgery Center of Excellence can help. If you would like to schedule a consultation with one of our board-certified surgeons, please call 888.336.0998 today.