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When thoracic outlet syndrome affects the nerves, the first treatment is always physical therapy. Physical therapy helps strengthen the shoulder muscles, improve range of motion, and promote better posture. Treatment may also include pain medication.
If there is pressure on the vein, your doctor may give you a blood thinner to dissolve the blood clot. This will help reduce swelling in your arm.
You may need surgery if physical therapy and changes in activity do not improve your symptoms. The surgeon may make a cut either under your armpit or just above your collarbone.
During surgery, the following may be done:
Your doctor may also suggest other alternatives, including angioplasty if the artery is narrowed.
Having the first rib removed and the fibrous bands broken may relieve symptoms in certain patients. Surgery can be successful in 50% to 80% of patients. Conservative approaches using physical therapy are helpful for many patients.
At least 5% of patients have symptoms that return after surgery.
Complications can occur with any surgery and relate to the type of procedure and anesthesia used.
Damage to nerves or blood vessels may occur during surgery. This could lead to weakness of the arm muscles, or weakness of the muscles that help control the diaphragm when you breathe.
Smythe WR, Reznik SI, Putnam Jr. JB. Lung (including pulmonary embolism and thoracic outlet syndrome). In: Townsend Jr. CM, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 18th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2007:chap 59.
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