Surgical treatment of thoracic outlet syndrome: a randomized trial comparing two operations.

Rishi N. Sheth, James N. Campbell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


OBJECT: Various surgical approaches have been proposed for the treatment of thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS). The authors of this study focused on the differences in outcome after supraclavicular neuroplasty of brachial plexus (SNBP [no rib resection]) and transaxillary first rib resection (TFRR) in patients in whom the dominant clinical problem was pain. METHODS: Fifty-five patients were randomized to undergo TFRR or SNBP. Patients with an anomalous cervical rib, intrinsic weakness, and primarily vascular findings were excluded from the study. Preoperatively, the following findings were typically observed: provocation of symptoms by certain postures (the so-called spear-throwing position as well as downward tugging of the shoulder) and marked tenderness in the supraclavicular fossa. The intergroup severity of the symptoms was comparable. Eight patients were lost to follow up. There were 24 TFRRs (in two cases the procedure was bilateral) and 25 SNBPs. The mean follow-up interval was 37 months. In both groups pain decreased significantly after surgery. By all measures the TFRR operation conferred superior results. Patients reported significantly less pain (39 +/- 7 compared with 61 +/- 7; score range 0-100 on a visual analog scale), greater percentage of pain relief (52 +/- 8% compared with 30 +/- 7%), and less pain (3.7 +/- 0.4 compared with 5.1 +/- 0.5) on an affective scale (all p < 0.05) in the TFRR and SNBP groups, respectively). In the TFRR group, 75% of patients reported good or excellent outcomes compared with 48% in the SNBP group (p < 0.05). CONCLUSIONS: Transaxillary first rib resection provided better relief of symptoms than SNBP. The major compressive element in patients with TOS-associated pain appeared to be the first rib.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)355-363
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of neurosurgery. Spine
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


Dive into the research topics of 'Surgical treatment of thoracic outlet syndrome: a randomized trial comparing two operations.'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this