Surgical intervention for thoracic outlet syndrome improves patient's quality of life

J Vasc Surg. 2009 Mar;49(3):630-5; discussion 635-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jvs.2008.10.023. Epub 2009 Jan 14.


Objective: To assess long-term quality of life outcomes in patients following transaxillary first-rib resection and scalenectomy for thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS).

Methods: This was a prospective observational study using the Short-Form 12 (SF-12) and Disability of Arm, Hand, and Shoulder (DASH) instruments between February 2005 and March 2008 in patients with TOS presenting to an academic medical center for preoperative surgical evaluation after failing physical therapy protocol. Surveys were conducted preoperatively and then again at 3, 6, 12, 18, and 24 months after surgery. Longitudinal data analysis was performed with population-averaged models using generalized estimating equations (GEE) method for average rate of recovery. Kaplan-Meier method was used to analyze time to return to work.

Results: A total of 70 out of 105 eligible patients (66.7%) completed the study protocol (44 neurogenic; 26 venous), returning 243 valid SF-12 surveys (162 neurogenic; 81 venous) and 188 valid DASH surveys (124 neurogenic; 64 venous). Half (50%) of the neurogenic patients and 77% of the venous patients returned to full-time work or activity within the study follow-up, with half of them doing so by 4 months and 75% of them by 5 months. There was no statistically significant difference in return to work between the neurogenic or venous patients. Neurogenic patients had baseline SF-12 Physical Component Scores (PCS) similar to chronic heart failure patients and were significantly worse than venous patients (33.8 vs 43.6, P < .001). In contrast, no difference existed in Mental Component Scores (MCS) (44.5 vs 43.5, P = .78). In follow-up, on average, PCS scores for neurogenic patients improved 0.24 points (P < .001) and MCS scores improved 0.15 points per month (P = .01); while PCS scores for venous patients improved 0.40 points (P = .004) and MCS scores improved 0.55 points per month (P < .001). Additionally, neurogenic patients had baseline DASH scores that were similar to patients with rotator cuff tears, and they were also significantly worse than venous patients (50.2 vs 25.0, P < .001). DASH scores, on average, also improved 0.85 points (P < .001) for neurogenic patients and 0.81 points (P < .001) for venous patients per month.

Conclusion: The use of the SF-12 and DASH instruments in patients with TOS demonstrated significant improvement in patients postoperatively. Venous TOS patients typically improved both physical and mental scores in shorter periods of time than their neurogenic counterparts. Neurogenic and venous TOS patients returned to full-time work/activity within the same length of time postoperatively. However, neurogenic patients required more secondary interventions. We conclude that in appropriately selected patients with either neurogenic or venous TOS, surgical intervention can improve their quality of life over time.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cognition
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Male
  • Orthopedic Procedures*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Quality of Life*
  • Recovery of Function
  • Reoperation
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Ribs / surgery*
  • Sick Leave
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Thoracic Outlet Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Thoracic Outlet Syndrome / etiology
  • Thoracic Outlet Syndrome / surgery*
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome