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Acta Phlebologica 2015 August;16(2):59-68


language: English

Epidemiology, diagnosis and treatment of thoracic outlet syndrome: a systematic review

Serra R. 1, 2, Grande R. 2, Perri P. 2, De Caridi G. 3, Massara M. 3, Settimio U. F. 2, Butrico L. 2, De Franciscis S. 1, 2

1 Interuniversity Center of Phlebolymphology (CIFL), International Research and Educational Program in Clinical and Experimental Biotechnology, Headquarters: University Magna Graecia of Catanzaro, Catanzaro, Italy; 2 Department of Medical and Surgical Sciences, University of Catanzaro, Catanzaro, Italy; 3 Department of Dentistry and Medical and Surgical Experimental Sciences, University of Messina, Messina, Italy


Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS) refers to the compression of the neurovascular bundle by various structures in the area just above the first rib and behind the clavicle leading to a wide range of signs and symptoms. Moreover, symptomatic overlap with other conditions makes it very difficult to confidently diagnose TOS and subsequently to treat it. This article presents a systematic analysis of the most recent scientific literature on epidemiology, the different etiologies of TOS, diagnostic procedures and innovative treatments. PubMed and ScienceDirect databases were searched for articles using the terms: “anatomy of thoracic outlet”, “thoracic outlet syndrome”, “arterial outlet syndrome”, “venous outlet syndrome”, “nervous and disputed outlet syndrome”, “compression, management of thoracic outlet syndrome”. All potentially eligible studies were subsequently evaluated in detail by authors considering the full text. Reference lists of retrieved articles were also searched for relevant publications. The initial database searches yielded 2301 studies from PubMed, and 1786 from ScienceDirect. We evaluated eligible 256 full text articles. The anatomy of thoracic outlet, the etiopathogenesis of different forms of TOS, the current procedures of diagnosis of each type of TOS found in literature, the description of the recent indications to the medical or surgical therapies in patients with TOS are here prsented. Modern studies indicate that a multidisciplinary comprehensive approach to TOS improves early and long-term outcomes. In fact, the treatment of TOS involves a combination of good clinical skills, multidisciplinary work, careful imaging, meticulous surgery, risk management and postoperative care.

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