The relationship between magnetic resonance imaging findings and postural maneuver and physical examination tests in patients with thoracic outlet syndrome: results of a double-blind, controlled study

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2007 Jul;88(7):844-51. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2007.03.015.


Objectives: To investigate the differences in findings from magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in the neutral and provocative positions, and to examine the relationship between these differences and the results of physical examination tests in patients with thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS).

Design: Prospective.

Setting: University physical medicine and rehabilitation outpatient and radiology clinics.

Participants: Twenty-nine patients and 12 healthy controls. All of the patients had positive bilateral TOS stress tests; control group participants were symptom free and had negative TOS stress tests bilaterally.

Interventions: Not applicable.

Main outcome measures: All participants underwent Adson's test, the Halsted maneuver, and a hyperabduction test. All were evaluated with MRI while in 2 positions: the neutral position (upper extremities adducted) and in a provocative position. Measurements were obtained at the interscalene triangle, at the costoclavicular space, and at the retropectoralis minor space.

Results: There was a significant difference in MRI findings between the neutral and provocative position in the patients (P<.05), but there were no significant differences in the control group. There was a significant difference in the positional change values in MRI between the patients and the control subjects (P<.05). The difference was found in the minimum costoclavicular distance between patients with a positive Halsted maneuver and a negative Halsted maneuver (P<.05).

Conclusions: Our findings indicate that MRI findings in patients in a provocative position are more valuable in the diagnosis of TOS, and these findings are in accord with findings from the physical evaluation tests.

Publication types

  • Controlled Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brachial Plexus / pathology
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Movement
  • Muscle, Skeletal / pathology
  • Physical Examination / methods*
  • Posture
  • Prospective Studies
  • Thoracic Outlet Syndrome / pathology*
  • Thoracic Outlet Syndrome / rehabilitation