Neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrome (nTOS) encompasses a wide spectrum of disabling symptoms that are often vague and difficult to diagnose and treat. We developed and prospectively analyzed a treatment algorithm for nTOS utilizing objective disability criteria, thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS)-specific physical therapy, radiographic evaluation of the thoracic outlet, and selective surgical decompression.Patients treated for nTOS from 2000-2009 were reviewed (n = 93). In period 1, most patients were offered surgery with documentation of appropriate symptoms. A prospective observational study began in 2007 (period 2) and was aimed at determining which patients benefited most from surgical intervention. Evaluation began with a validated mini-QuickDASH (QD) quality-of-life scale (0-100, 100 = worse) and duplex imaging of the thoracic outlet. Patients then participated in TOS-specific physical therapy (PT) for 2 to 4 months and were offered surgery based on response to PT and improvement in symptoms.Thirty-four patients underwent first rib resection in period 1 (68% female, mean age 39, 18% athletes, 15% workers comp). In operated patients undergoing duplex imaging, 47% showed compression of their thoracic outlet arterial flow on provocative positioning. Based on subjective improvement of symptoms, 56% of patients at 1 year had a positive outcome. In period 2 during the prospective cohort, 59 consecutive patients were evaluated for nTOS (64% female, mean age 36, 32% athletes, 12% workers comp) with a mean pre-PT QD disability score of 55.1. All patients were prescribed PT, and 24 (41%) were eventually offered surgical decompression based on compliance with PT, interval improvement on QD score, and duplex compression of the thoracic outlet. Twenty-one patients underwent surgery (SURG group) consisting of first rib resection, middle and anterior scalenectomy, and brachial plexus neurolysis. There were significant differences between the SURG and non-SURG cohorts with respect to age, participation in competitive athletics, history of trauma, and symptom improvement with PT. At 1-year follow-up, 90% of patients expressed symptomatic improvement with the mean post-op QD disability score decreasing to 24.9 (P = .005) and 1-year QD scores improving down to 20.5 (P = .014).This highly-selective algorithm for nTOS surgery leads to improvement in overall success rates documented subjectively and objectively. Compliance with TOS-specific PT, improvement in QD scores after PT, young age, and competitive athletics are associated with improved surgical outcomes. Long-term follow-up will be necessary to document sustained symptom relief and to determine who the optimal surgical candidates are.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.jvs.2011.05.105
View details for PubMedID 21803527