What is thoracic outlet syndrome?

Updated: Jan 10, 2019
  • Author: Daryl A Rosenbaum, MD; Chief Editor: Sherwin SW Ho, MD  more...
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Answer

Thoracic outlet syndrome is not the name of a single entity but rather a collective title for a variety of conditions attributed to the compression of neurovascular structures as they traverse the thoracic outlet. [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6] The thoracic outlet is bordered by the scalene muscles, first rib, and clavicle. Neurovascular structures pass from the neck and thorax into the axilla through this space. Thoracic outlet syndrome remains one of the most controversial clinical entities in medicine. [7, 8, 9] See the image below.

Thoracic outlet syndrome in a 16-year-old volleyba Thoracic outlet syndrome in a 16-year-old volleyball player with a stenotic right subclavian vein (arrow) secondary to fibrosis.

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