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J Pediatr Surg. 2008 Jun;43(6):1089-94. doi: 10.1016/j.jpedsurg.2008.02.038.

Pediatric thoracic outlet syndrome: a disorder with serious vascular complications.

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  • 1Department of Pediatric Surgery, St. Christopher's Hospital for Children, Philadelphia, PA 19134, USA.



Thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS), caused by compression of the neurovascular structures between the clavicle and scalene muscles, typically presents with neurologic symptoms in adults. We reviewed our experience with 25 adolescents and propose a diagnostic/treatment algorithm for pediatric TOS.


From 1993 to 2005, 25 patients were treated with TOS. A retrospective chart review was performed with institutional review board approval. Demographics, clinical presentation, diagnostic studies, and treatment were evaluated.


Seven male (28%) and 18 female (72%) patients presented between the ages of 12 to 18 years. Thirteen (52%) had vascular TOS (11 venous, 2 arterial), 11 (44%) had neurologic TOS, and 1 had both. Vascular TOS included subclavian vein thrombosis (7), venous impingement (4), and arterial impingement (2). Three patients had hypercoagulable disorders, and 6 had effort thrombosis. Venography was diagnostic in 10 cases. Neurogenic TOS was diagnosed by clinical symptoms. Five patients with subclavian vein thrombosis underwent thrombolysis, with 3 maintaining long-term patency. Of 25 patients, 24 underwent transaxillary first rib resection.


Vascular complications are more common in adolescents with TOS than in adults. A diagnostic/treatment algorithm includes urgent venography and thrombolysis for venous TOS and a workup for hypercoagulability. Neurogenic TOS is diagnosed clinically, whereas other studies are rarely beneficial.

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