Not many people have heard of the thoracic outlet, but most people are familiar with its functions whether they’re aware of it or not. The thoracic outlet is located in the shoulder, specifically behind the collarbone. Many highly important nerves run through this outlet, and when these nerves are compressed, individuals could feel tingling sensations in their hands, lose blood in the extremities, and even lose mobility in the arm if the condition isn’t treated quickly enough. At the Thoracic Outlet Surgery Center of Excellence, we have a team of highly-qualified thoracic surgeons who can diagnosis and treat a variety of disorders involving the thoracic outlet.
Disorders of the Thoracic Outlet
Due to the vulnerable nature of the thoracic outlet, there are many disorders which can affect the area. The thoracic outlet is home to a bundle of nerves named the brachial plexus, which is located behind the collarbone. When these nerves are compressed, a patient could experience a variety of symptoms such as discoloration of the hand, blood clots in the affected arm, fatigue, numbness or tingling in the hands and fingers, and much more. This condition is called thoracic outlet syndrome, and is one of the most common disorders in the thoracic outlet. Though there are various treatment remedies available for the condition, the most effective is a surgery called thoracic outlet decompression.
In addition, thoracic surgeons are adept at treating the following conditions of the thoracic cavity.
- Lung cancer
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Swallowing disorders
Surgeries Performed in the Thoracic Outlet
Thoracic surgeons are experts in performing many surgeries in the thoracic outlet, including the aforementioned thoracic outlet decompression. In this procedure, surgeons can take one of two approaches to fixing the condition. A transaxillary approach involves an incision on a patient’s chest, which allows a surgeon access to the thoracic outlet. However, this approach limits access to nerves and muscles that could potentially be causing the compression.
A supraclavicular approach, on the other hand, allows for a wider range of access to the thoracic outlet. A surgeon will make an incision on the neck of a patient, then look for the muscles and ribs that may be applying pressure to the brachial plexus.
Other surgeries performed by thoracic surgeons include the following:
- Thoracic sympathectomy
- Nissen fundoplication
How to Avoid Thoracic Outlet Damage
There are many simple and effective means for reducing the chance of injury to the thoracic outlet. Maintaining good posture can be an incredibly effective means of limiting the pressure on the brachial plexus. In addition, people who are physically active should avoid activities that may worsen symptoms of the disorder, such as carrying heavy weights over the shoulder.
In addition, maintaining a healthy weight and frequent shoulder massages can help prevent pressure from forming in the thoracic outlet. As is the case with many disorders and conditions, prevention is the best medicine. A healthy lifestyle combined with a nutritious diet can limit the chances of a thoracic injury occurring in individuals.
Schedule a Consultation with a Thoracic Specialist Today
At the Thoracic Outlet Surgery Center of Excellence, our thoracic surgeons pride themselves on the great level of care and treatment provided to patients. If you are suffering from any of the disorders and conditions that affect the thoracic outlet, our surgeons would love to help. If you would like to schedule a consultation with one our board-certified surgeons, please contact us at 888.336.0998 today.