Surgical approaches for thoracic outlet decompression in the treatment of thoracic outlet syndrome

Stijn B.J. Teijink, Jens Goeteyn, Niels Pesser, Bart F.L. van Nuenen, Robert W. Thompson, Joep A.W. Teijink

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS) is a controversial and uncommon syndrome. Three different diagnoses can be made based on the compressed structure: arterial TOS, venous TOS, and neurogenic TOS. Diagnosing TOS, especially neurogenic TOS, remains difficult since a single diagnostic tool does not exist. Although this resulted in a lot of confusion, standardization of care and outcome improved daily care practice measures in the last decade. Current treatment algorithms consist of both conservative and surgical treatment approaches, which should be chosen depending on the type of TOS and extend of the complaints. Surgical treatment of TOS is performed via thoracic outlet decompression (TOD). TOD surgery includes complete resection of the first rib (cartilage to cartilage), transection of the scalene muscles and complete neurolysis/venolysis or arteriolysis. Four different approaches can be chosen for TOD surgery: the transaxillary (TA), supraclavicular (SC), paraclavicular (PC), and infraclavicular (IC) approach. The TA, SC, and PC approach can be used for every form of TOS. However, the PC approach is mostly used for treating venous TOS. The IC approach has no role in treating neurogenic or arterial TOS and is only used for venous TOS. Every approach has its own benefits and limitations and literature does not agree on what approach is best. Therefore, the used surgical approach for TOD should be based on the surgeon’s preference and experience. The aim of this review is to present an overview of the diagnostic pathway and provide an in-depth description of the surgical approach in each form of TOS.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7088-7099
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Thoracic Disease
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2023


  • Thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS)
  • paraclavicular thoracic outlet decompression (PC-TOD)
  • supraclavicular thoracic outlet decompression (SC-TOD)
  • transaxillary thoracic outlet decompression (TA-TOD)


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