Thirty-year single-center experience with arterial thoracic outlet syndrome

Grayson S. Pitcher, Indrani Sen, Bernardo C. Mendes, Fahad Shuja, Randall R. DeMartino, Thomas C. Bower, Manju Kalra, William S. Harmsen, Jill J. Colglazier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Arterial thoracic outlet syndrome (ATOS) is rare. We present our 30-year experience with the management of ATOS at a high-volume referral center. Methods: A retrospective review of all patients who had undergone primary operative treatment for ATOS from 1988 to 2018 was performed. ATOS was defined as subclavian artery pathology caused by extrinsic compression from a bony abnormality within the thoracic outlet. Results: A total of 41 patients (45 limbs) underwent surgery for ATOS at a median age of 46 years (interquartile range [IQR], 34-58 years). Chronic symptoms (>6 weeks) were present in 31 limbs (69%). Of the 45 limbs, 13 (29%) presented with acute limb ischemia (ALI), requiring urgent brachial artery thromboembolectomy (BAT) in 9 and catheter-directed thrombolysis and thrombectomy (CDT) in 4. All patients underwent thoracic outlet decompression. 31 limbs (69%) required subclavian artery reconstruction. No perioperative deaths and only one major adverse limb event occurred. Patients with ALI underwent staged thoracic outlet decompression after initial BAT or CDT at a median of 23 days (IQR, 11-140 days). Of the 13 limbs with an initial presentation of ALI, 8 (62%) had recurrent thromboembolic events before thoracic outlet decompression subsequently requiring 10 additional BATs and 1 CDT. The cumulative probability of recurrent embolization at 14, 30, and 90 days was 8.33% (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.28%-54.42%), 16.67% (95% CI, 4.70%-59.06%), and 33.33% (95% CI, 14.98-74.20%), respectively. The median follow-up for 32 patients (35 limbs) was 13 months (IQR, 5-36 months). Subclavian artery/graft primary and secondary patency was 87% and 90%, respectively, at 5 years by Kaplan-Meier analysis. Of the 35 limbs, 5 (14%) had chronic upper extremity pain and 5 (14%) had persistent weakness. Preoperative forearm or hand pain and brachial artery occlusion were associated with chronic pain (P = .04 and P = .03) and weakness (P = .03 and P = .02). Of the 13 limbs that presented with ALI, 11 had a median follow-up after thoracic outlet decompression of 6 months (IQR, 5-14 months), including 9 (82%) with oral anticoagulation therapy. Anticoagulation therapy had no effect on subclavian artery patency (P = 1.0) or the presence of chronic symptoms (P = .93). Conclusions: The presentation of ATOS is diverse, and the diagnosis can be delayed. Preoperative upper extremity pain and brachial artery occlusion in the setting of ALI were associated with chronic pain and weakness after thoracic outlet decompression. Delayed thoracic outlet decompression was associated with an increased risk of recurrent thromboembolic events for patients who presented with ALI. An early and accurate diagnosis of ATOS is necessary to reduce morbidity and optimize outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)523-530
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of vascular surgery
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2022


  • Acute limb ischemia Arterial thoracic outlet syndrome Thoracic outlet syndrome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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