Cervical Rib Prevalence and its Association with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome: A Meta-Analysis of 141 Studies with Surgical Considerations

World Neurosurg. 2018 Feb:110:e965-e978. doi: 10.1016/j.wneu.2017.11.148. Epub 2017 Dec 2.


Background: Cervical ribs (CR) are supernumerary ribs that arise from the seventh cervical vertebra. In the presence of CR, the boundaries of the interscalene triangle can be further constricted and result in neurovascular compression and thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS). The aim of our study was to provide a comprehensive evidence-based assessment of CR prevalence and their association with TOS as well as surgical approach to excision of CR and surgical patients' characteristics.

Methods: A thorough search of major electronic databases was conducted to identify any relevant studies. Data on the prevalence, laterality, and side of CR were extracted from the eligible studies for both healthy individuals and patients with TOS. Data on the type of TOS and surgical approach to excision of CR were extracted as well.

Results: A total of 141 studies (n = 77,924 participants) were included into the meta-analysis. CR was significantly more prevalent in patients with TOS than in healthy individuals, with pooled prevalence estimates of 29.5% and 1.1%, respectively. More than half of the patients had unilateral CR in both the healthy and the TOS group. The analysis showed that 51.3% of the symptomatic patients with CR had vascular TOS, and 48.7% had neurogenic TOS. Most CR were surgically excised in women using a supraclavicular approach.

Conclusions: CR ribs are frequent findings in patients with TOS. We recommended counseling asymptomatic patients with incidentally discovered CR on the symptoms of TOS, so that if symptoms develop, the patients can undergo prompt and appropriate workup and treatment.

Keywords: Anatomy; Cervical rib; Meta-analysis; Thoracic outlet syndrome.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cervical Rib / surgery*
  • Databases, Bibliographic / statistics & numerical data
  • Decompression, Surgical / methods*
  • Humans
  • Prevalence
  • Thoracic Outlet Syndrome / epidemiology*
  • Thoracic Outlet Syndrome / surgery*