Early operative intervention after thrombolytic therapy for primary subclavian vein thrombosis: an effective treatment approach

J Vasc Surg. 1998 Jun;27(6):1101-7; discussion 1107-8. doi: 10.1016/s0741-5214(98)70012-6.


Purpose: Effective treatment of primary subclavian vein thrombosis focuses on restoration of venous patency, relief of intrinsic stenosis, and decompression of the thoracic inlet. The appropriate method and timing for surgery, however, have not been not well defined. We conducted a study to determine an acceptable treatment approach.

Methods: A retrospective review evaluated 11 patients seen at our institution in an 8-year period. Seven patients were male and four were female, with an average age of 30 years (range 15 to 54 years). Two patients who had symptomatic stenosis without occlusion were omitted from the study. All patients with occlusion received urokinase therapy and underwent surgical decompression within 5 days of thrombolytic therapy. Five percutaneous transluminal angioplasties were attempted before operative intervention. Eleven decompressions were performed, including nine first-rib resections and two scalenectomies. Five operative venous procedures, consisting of thrombectomy with patch closure (n = 3) and bypass (n = 2), and seven venolysis procedures were performed. All patients received coumadin for 3 to 6 months after the operation.

Results: Urokinase therapy established wide venous patency in nine of the 11 extremities treated, with the remaining two requiring thrombectomy for residual thrombus at the time of operation. One patient who underwent transluminal angioplasty before the operation had rethrombosis, and the remaining four showed no improvement in venous stenosis after the intervention. Eight of nine extremities treated by first-rib resection and one of two treated by scalenectomy were free of residual symptoms at follow-up.

Conclusions: Preoperative use of percutaneous balloon angioplasty is ineffective and should be avoided in this setting. Surgical intervention within days of thrombolysis obviates the need for interim oral anticoagulation and enables patients to return to normal activity sooner.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anticoagulants / administration & dosage*
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Decompression, Surgical / methods
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Heparin / administration & dosage*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Plasminogen Activators / administration & dosage*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Subclavian Vein / surgery*
  • Thrombolytic Therapy*
  • Thrombosis / drug therapy*
  • Thrombosis / surgery*
  • Time Factors
  • Urokinase-Type Plasminogen Activator / administration & dosage*


  • Anticoagulants
  • Heparin
  • Plasminogen Activators
  • Urokinase-Type Plasminogen Activator