Columbia Vascular Surgery
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Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (Vascular)

What is Thoracic Outlet Syndrome?

Thoracic outlet syndrome is a cause for shoulder, neck and arm discomfort that occurs when a nerves or blood vessels near the collarbone get pinched or compressed.

Vascular thoracic outlet syndrome can be classified as either venous or arterial, depending on which blood vessel is compressed.

Who Gets Thoracic Outlet Syndrome?

Thoracic outlet syndrome is often the result of physical stress to the body, which may be due to:

  • Traumatic injury, like from a car accident
  • Repetitive motion injuries (many cases of thoracic outlet syndrome are sports-related)
  • Pregnancy
  • Obesity
  • Chronic poor posture

In many cases of thoracic outlet syndrome, the exact cause of the problem remains unclear.

Thoracic outlet syndrome is more commonly seen in women than men, and typically affects younger people, between the ages of 20 and 40.

What Are The Symptoms of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome?

Symptoms of vascular thoracic outlet syndrome may include:

  • Neck pain 
  • Arm pain and swelling
  • Arm weakness
  • Hand discoloration (blue or pale)
  • Hand numbness or tingling

Vascular thoracic outlet syndrome may also cause dangerous blood clots in the upper body.

How Is Thoracic Outlet Syndrome Treated?

The first step in treating thoracic outlet syndrome is typically avoiding repetitive stress, heavy lifting, and if possible, correcting any underlying problems like obesity or poor posture. Physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medications may also help.

When other treatments are successful, surgery may be a good option to resolve thoracic outlet syndrome. A vascular surgeon can relive the compression on the artery or vein and can also treat any associated blood clots.  In some cases, the vascular surgeon may need to replace a damaged portion of the blood vessel with a graft—either from elsewhere in the patient’s body or an artificial graft.

If I Have Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, What Are The Next Steps?

If you have think you may have thoracic outlet syndrome and need to confirm the diagnosis, or if you know you have it and it hasn’t been controlled with lifestyle changes and physical therapy, you may want to consult with a vascular surgeon to explore your options and see if surgery makes sense for you. Our vascular surgery team are experts at diagnosing and treating thoracic outlet syndrome, and they’re here to help you.

Make an appointment today.

Next Steps

If you are in need of help for a vascular condition, we’re here for you. Call us now at (212) 342-3255 or fill out our online form to get started today.

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