Purpose of review: The diagnosis and management of thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS) has been surrounded by controversy since this disorder was first recognized. Recent evidence from observational studies has helped us better understand the pathophysiology of different TOS subtypes and guide clinical decision making for this disorder.
Recent findings: The identification of anatomic anomalies involved with the cause of different TOS subtypes has been made easier by contemporary diagnostic techniques. This includes the injection of neuromuscular blocking agents into anterior scalene muscles to help confirm the diagnosis of neurogenic TOS. Surgical intervention by means of first rib resection and anterior scalenectomy is an effective treatment for patients diagnosed with neurogenic and venous TOS, resulting in a significant increase in quality-of-life measures for the majority of patients. Patients with acute and chronic venous TOS should be maintained on anticoagulation during the perioperative period and may not need thrombolysis prior to surgery. Finally, patients with arterial TOS should undergo cervical or first rib resection with or without arterial reconstruction to alleviate and prevent recurrence of symptoms.
Summary: The management of TOS requires a multidisciplinary approach with specific treatment algorithms for each TOS subtype. Appropriately selected patients with all different types of TOS may benefit from surgical intervention.