At the Thoracic Outlet Surgery Center of Excellence, our thoracic surgeons are experts at diagnosing and treating the various forms of thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS). Though less common than its neurogenic form, vascular thoracic outlet syndrome can be broken down into two sub-conditions: arterial and venous thoracic outlet syndrome, the latter of which is estimating to affect 4% of individuals suffering from TOS. Even though venous TOS is less common than other forms of the condition, it nevertheless is a serious disorder that should be treated as soon as possible.
If you suffer from venous TOS and would like to schedule a consultation with one of our board-certified thoracic outlet surgeons, please contact us today by calling 888.336.0998.Contact Us Now!
Causes of Venous Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
Located between the shoulder and neck, the thoracic outlet is home to nerves, arteries, and veins. Venous thoracic outlet syndrome is caused when pressure is placed upon the subclavian vein in the thoracic outlet, leading to swelling in the hands, fingers, and arms, weakness of the neck and shoulders, and dilation of veins in the anterior chest wall. This pressure can stem from a variety of causes, but most often is caused by the following:
- Anatomical defects: Congenital defects such as a cervical rib (an extra rib located above the first rib) can shrink the size of the thoracic outlet and place pressure on the subclavian vein, causing the symptoms of venous TOS to occur.
- Trauma to the shoulder: Injury to the shoulder can cause compression of the vein in the thoracic outlet, leading to the development of venous TOS.
- Overweight: Individuals who are overweight place more stress upon their joints, which heightens the risk of venous TOS.
- Repetitive activities: Sports that require a constant repetition of movement can cause the onset on venous TOS. Examples include golf, swimming, volleyball, and baseball (particularly with pitchers).
Most often, venous thoracic outlet syndrome occurs in men between the ages of 20 and 35, and accounts for 4% of individuals affected by TOS. Learn more about how venous thoracic outlet syndrome is tested and diagnosed on our testing and diagnosis page.
Treatment for Venous Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
Treatment options for venous TOS are nearly identical to treatment for other forms of thoracic outlet syndrome. In most cases, physicians will initially recommend physical therapy, which helps restore strength and mobility to the shoulder and neck area. If TOS symptoms persist after physical therapy, doctors may recommend surgery.
Video-assisted thoracoscopic sympathectomy (also known as VATS) is a procedure used to relieve pressure in the thoracic outlet. Commonly, this is accomplished through the resectioning of the first rib. Using tiny cameras, surgeons remove a small piece of the rib, which reduces compression of the subclavian vein in the thoracic outlet.
Q: What’s the difference between the different forms of thoracic outlet syndrome?
A: Thoracic outlet syndrome is the name for various disorders affecting the thoracic outlet. In the vast majority of cases (95%), patients with thoracic outlet syndrome have the neurogenic form of the disorder. Neurogenic TOS is caused when the brachial plexus, a bundle of nerves in the thoracic outlet, is compressed. Vascular thoracic outlet syndrome, on the other hand, is rarer than neurogenic TOS, and is comprised of two specific disorders: arterial thoracic outlet syndrome and venous thoracic outlet syndrome. The former condition involves the compression of an artery, while the latter involves the compression of a vein.
Despite the differences between forms of thoracic outlet syndrome, their symptoms and treatment methods are very similar. If a patient suffers from any version of TOS, he or she should consult a thoracic surgeon as soon as possible.
Q: Is venous thoracic outlet syndrome dangerous?
A: Luckily, venous TOS is treatable. However, if left untreated, the condition can result in very serious complications, such as swelling, muscle weakness, and even the death of body tissue.
Q: What is the recovery time from thoracic outlet surgery?
A: Generally, video-assisted thoracoscopic sympathectomy is performed as an outpatient procedure, which means that a patient does not require an overnight hospital stay. However, because of lingering anesthesia effects, patients should have a friend or family member drive them home safely. Once home, patients should recover from VATS after a few weeks.
Schedule a Consultation with a Thoracic Specialist Today
If you suffer from venous thoracic outlet syndrome, please do not hesitate to contact the experts at the Thoracic Outlet Surgery Center of Excellence today. Using a combination of advanced knowledge and state-of-the-art procedures, our thoracic experts can help patients reduce and eliminate the symptoms of thoracic outlet syndrome. If you would like to schedule a consultation with our thoracic surgeons, please call 888.336.0998 today.
Next, read about neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrome.