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Thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS)

compression of the neurovascular structures as they exit through the thoracic outlet

Our peripheral nerve surgeons are leading experts at treating thoracic outlet syndrome

About TOS

Thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS) is where compressed nerves and blood vessels between your collarbone and first rib cause neck and upper limb pain. It also causes neurological problems such as numbness in the arm and hand, and reduced function. 

TOS may result from trauma, repetitive arm movements, tumours, or anatomical variations such as a cervical rib. It can also occur during pregnancy.

Need to know

  • What are the symptoms of thoracic outlet syndrome? icon plus

    Trauma such as a car accident, repetitive movement such as weight-lifting and a particular anatomy of the neck can cause TOS. However, a main cause is a cervical rib. This is a rare condition where an extra rib grows from the neck. This presses down on the nerves and blood vessels causing pain.
  • Diagnosing TOS icon plus

    Your consultant will discuss your symptoms with you to help make a diagnosis. They will ask questions about your medical history and the types of pain you've been having. In TOS, it's often easier to rule out other neurological conditions first. They may order:

  • Potential treatment options icon plus

    Pain relief and physiotherapy can be an effective cure for TOS. However, if your symptoms do not get better, your consultant may advise surgery.

    Thoracic decompression surgery treats TOS. Here, your surgeon makes an incision in your neck, parting the muscles and removing the compression of the brachial plexus (the five main nerves that supply the whole of the upper limb). If a cervical rib is compressing the nerves, it will also be removed.

Consultant in theatres

Our thoracic outlet syndrome consultants

We're proud to work with leading experts in neurosurgery, spinal and peripheral nerve surgery, whose skills are matched by their integrity and compassion.

Our locations

From complex nerve surgery to diagnostic tests and procedures, we provide exceptional peripheral nerve care across our network of hospitals, outpatient centres and specialist clinics.

This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
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