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J Vasc Surg. 2004 Oct;40(4):599-603.

Combination treatment of venous thoracic outlet syndrome: open surgical decompression and intraoperative angioplasty.

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Division of Vascular Surgery, University of California, San Francisco 94143-0222, USA.



Residual subclavian vein stenosis after thoracic outlet decompression in patients with venous thoracic outlet syndrome is often treated with postoperative percutaneous angioplasty (PTA). However, interval recurrent thrombosis before postoperative angioplasty is performed can be a vexing problem. Therefore we initiated a prospective trial at 2 referral institutions to evaluate the safety and efficacy of combined thoracic outlet decompression with intraoperative PTA performed in 1 stage.


Over 3 years 25 consecutive patients (16 women, 9 men; median age, 30 years) underwent treatment for venous thoracic outlet syndrome with a standard protocol at 2 institutions. Twenty-one patients (84%) underwent preoperative thrombolysis to treat axillosubclavian vein thrombosis. First-rib resection was performed through combined supraclavicular and infraclavicular incisions. Intraoperative venography and subclavian vein PTA were performed through a percutaneous basilic vein approach. Postoperative anticoagulation therapy was not used routinely. Venous duplex ultrasound scanning was performed postoperatively and at 1, 6, and 12 months.


Intraoperative venography enabled identification of residual subclavian vein stenosis in 16 patients (64%), and all underwent intraoperative PTA with 100% technical success. Postoperative duplex scans documented subclavian vein patency in 23 patients (92%). Complications included subclavian vein recurrent thrombosis in 2 patients (8%), and both underwent percutaneous mechanical thrombectomy, with restoration of patency in 1 patient. One-year primary and secondary patency rates were 92% and 96%, respectively, at life-table analysis.


Residual subclavian vein stenosis after operative thoracic outlet decompression is common in patients with venous thoracic outlet syndrome. Combination treatment with surgical thoracic outlet decompression and intraoperative PTA is a safe and effective means for identifying and treating residual subclavian vein stenosis. Moreover, intraoperative PTA may reduce the incidence of postoperative recurrent thrombosis and eliminate the need for venous stent placement or open venous repair.

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