Functional imaging of the thoracic outlet syndrome in an open MR scanner

Eur Radiol. 2000;10(4):597-600. doi: 10.1007/s003300050970.


Symptoms due to thoracic outlet syndrome may present only in abduction, a position that cannot be investigated in conventional MR scanners. Therefore, this study was initiated to test MRI in an open magnet as a method for diagnosis of thoracic outlet syndrome. Ten volunteers and 7 patients with a clinical suspicion of thoracic outlet syndrome were investigated at 0.5 T in an open MR scanner. Sagittal 3D SPGR acquisitions were made in 0 and 90 degrees abduction. In the patients, a similar data set was also obtained in maximal abduction. To assess compression, the minimum distance between the first rib and the clavicle, measured in a sagittal plane, was determined. In the neutral position, no significant difference was found between patients and controls. In 90 degrees abduction, the patients had significantly smaller distance between rib and clavicle than the controls (14 vs 29 mm; p < 0.01). On coronal reformatted images, the compression of the brachial plexus could often be visualised in abduction. Functional MR examination seems to be a useful diagnostic tool in thoracic outlet syndrome. Examination in abduction, which is feasible in an open scanner, is essential for the diagnosis.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Thoracic Outlet Syndrome / pathology*