How is thoracic outlet syndrome diagnosed?

Updated: Jan 10, 2019
  • Author: Daryl A Rosenbaum, MD; Chief Editor: Sherwin SW Ho, MD  more...
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To exclude systemic disease and inflammation, a few simple blood tests may refine the differential diagnosis for thoracic outlet syndrome, including a blood glucose level, complete blood cell (CBC) count, erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), basic metabolic panel, thyrotropin level, and rheumatologic workup, if indicated.

Imaging studies that can be used in the diagnosis of thoracic outlet syndrome include the following:

  • Radiography
  • Computed tomography (CT) scanning and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) - Useful for identifying other conditions that might cause similar symptoms
  • Magnetic resonance angiography (MRA)
  • Venography and duplex scanning

Electrodiagnostic studies can be helpful in classic cases of neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrome. However, many symptoms are intermittent in this disorder; therefore, negative test results do not rule out the diagnosis.

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