Upper extremity arterial injury in athletes

J Vasc Surg. 1989 Feb;9(2):317-27.


Between 1983 and 1986, 23 athletes were evaluated for arm and hand complaints. Eleven players had symptoms of thoracic outlet compression. Severe arm fatigue (eight patients) and finger ischemia (three patients) were the presenting symptoms. In the remaining 12 athletes, symptoms of hand ischemia were predominant. Noninvasive testing with Doppler ultrasonography and duplex scanning (positional testing and finger systolic pressure recording) and cold immersion were used to aid in diagnosis. In the 11 athletes with thoracic outlet compression, arteriography confirmed the finding with compression of the subclavian artery in five, the axillary artery in one, both subclavian and axillary arteries in two, posterior humeral circumflex artery in one, and subclavian aneurysm in two. Compression of the suprascapular artery was identified in four, the subscapular artery in two, and the posterior humeral circumflex artery in one. Thrombosis of a first baseman's ulnar artery and occlusion of the palmar arch in a frisbee player were documented by arteriography. Decompression of the thoracic outlet consisted of anterior scalenectomy in five, pectoralis minor muscle division in one, and resection of both muscles in two. Removal of cervical rib with interposed vein graft was performed in the two players with arterial aneurysm. Hand ischemia in the remaining athletes was treated conservatively with Dextran-heparin infusion for acute ischemia. Repeat noninvasive study of all players demonstrated absence of compression in their playing position, and all have resumed their playing careers. Hand ischemia in athletes can be evaluated noninvasively and treated conservatively. Resection of hypertrophied muscles to decompress the thoracic outlet together with release of branch artery compression in selected athletes promotes perfusion to arm and shoulder muscles and helps to avoid the catastrophic complication of repetitive trauma leading to sudden arterial thrombosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Angiography
  • Arm / blood supply*
  • Arteries
  • Athletic Injuries / diagnosis*
  • Athletic Injuries / diagnostic imaging
  • Baseball
  • Blood Pressure
  • Female
  • Hand / blood supply*
  • Humans
  • Ischemia / diagnosis*
  • Ischemia / diagnostic imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sports
  • Thoracic Outlet Syndrome / diagnosis*
  • Thoracic Outlet Syndrome / diagnostic imaging