Current practice of thoracic outlet decompression surgery in the United States

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Thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS) and its management are relatively controversial topics. Most of the literature reporting the outcomes of surgical decompression for TOS derives from single-center experiences. The objective of our study was to describe the current state of TOS surgery among hospitals that participate in the American College of Surgeons National Surgical Quality Improvement Program database.


Our study sample consisted of patients from the 2005 to 2014 American College of Surgeons National Surgical Quality Improvement Program database who underwent first or cervical rib resection as their index procedure and whose constellation of diagnosis and procedure codes identified them as having neurogenic, arterial, or venous TOS. Patient and procedure characteristics were determined, as were the 30-day incidence of specific complications including nerve injury. Multimodel inference was used for multivariable analysis of the composite outcome of readmission or reoperation ≤30 days.


We identified 1431 patients undergoing operation for TOS: 83% for neurogenic TOS, 3% for arterial TOS, and 12% for venous TOS. Vascular surgeons performed 90% of procedures. Only four patients (0.3%) demonstrated evidence of nerve injury. The rate of bleeding complication requiring transfusion was also quite low, at 1.4%. The 30-day incidence of readmission or reoperation, or both, in our study cohort was 8.6%. The risk of this outcome was increased in patients with a higher American Society of Anesthesiologists Physical Status Classification, those whose procedure was for non-neurogenic symptoms, and those whose procedure took longer to complete.


The findings of our study will provide surgeons who advocate for the surgical management of TOS with reassurance that such intervention is associated with an extremely low risk of disability resulting from iatrogenic nerve injury and major bleeding events.

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