Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Upper Spine FAQ

Question:

Whoa! I never thought I'd have to write in for help like this but I need it. I was told I have thoracic outlet syndrome and that's what was causing my neck and arm pain. I had surgery to set the nerves free. I'm not any better. Now the surgeon wants to take a chunk of my rib out. How is that going to help?

Answer:

We understand your frustration. Thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS) can be very difficult to evaluate and treat. The treatment should match the underlying cause but it's not always possible to know what the real problem is.

When surgery is indicated the surgeon might take a more conservative approach. Removing part of a rib can't be undone so rib-sparing surgery is often tried first. If the patient doesn't improve, then the second more advanced operation is still possible.

It's thought that the rib pushes up against the bundle of nerves as they leave the neck and go down the arm. In some cases the nerves might naturally dip down toward the first rib. Either way compression is taken off the nerves by removing a section of the bone.

Rishi N. Sheth, MD and James N. Campbell, MD. Surgical Treatment of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome: A Randomized Trial Comparing Two Operations. In Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine. November 2005. Vol. 3. No. 5. Pp. 355-363.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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