Diagnosis and treatment of effort-induced thrombosis of the axillary subclavian vein due to venous thoracic outlet syndrome

Chandu Vemuri, Payam Salehi, Jaime Benarroch-Gampel, Lauren N. McLaughlin, Robert W. Thompson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Venous thoracic outlet syndrome (VTOS) is uncommon but most frequently occurs in young, active, healthy patients. This condition typically presents as subclavian vein (SCV) effort thrombosis, also known as Paget-Schroetter syndrome. The pathophysiology underlying VTOS is chronic repetitive compression injury of the SCV in the costoclavicular space, resulting in progressive venous scarring, focal stenosis, and eventual thrombosis. Clinical evaluation includes a history and physical examination followed by catheter-based venography, for definitive confirmation of the diagnosis and initial treatment with pharmacomechanical thrombolysis. After restoration of SCV patency, patients are maintained with anticoagulation and surgical therapy is usually planned within 4 to 6 weeks. Surgical management of VTOS can be accomplished via different protocols involving either the transaxillary, infraclavicular or paraclavicular approaches to thoracic outlet decompression. The paraclavicular approach is emphasized in this review, because it affords the surgeon the ability to safely perform complete thoracic outlet decompression (complete anterior and middle scalenectomy, removal of the entire first rib, and resection of the subclavius muscle and costoclavicular ligament), along with definitive management of the damaged SCV (external venolysis, intraoperative venography, and direct vein reconstruction, if needed, using patch angioplasty or bypass grafting), in one operative setting. After surgical therapy, interval anticoagulation and a comprehensive physical therapy and rehabilitation program are important in achieving a return to full function. Current protocols on the basis of the paraclavicular surgical approach have thereby routinely provided patients with lasting symptomatic relief, freedom from indefinite anticoagulation, and the ability to return to unrestricted upper extremity activity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)485-500
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Vascular Surgery: Venous and Lymphatic Disorders
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2016


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