Thoracic outlet syndromes

How are thoracic outlet syndromes diagnosed?

Making the diagnosis of a thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS) can be hard because several disorders cause similar signs and symptoms. These may include rotator cuff injuries, cervical disc disorders, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, complex regional pain syndrome, and tumors of the syrinx or spinal cord. TOS can sometimes be diagnosed based on a physical exam and specific symptoms present, but tests and imaging studies are often used to rule out other conditions.

Further testing to rule out other conditions or confirm a suspected diagnosis of TOS may include:

Last updated on 05-01-20

Are cervical ribs inherited?

Cervical ribs are actually thought to be a common trait. It has been estimated that 1 to 2% of the population have a cervical rib. Cervical ribs can affect one or both sides of the neck, and may cause thoracic outlet syndrome by putting pressure on an artery.

Currently, the cause of cervical ribs is not known. In general, both genetic and environmental factors are thought to be involved. There have been animal studies investigating the role of HOX genes in causing extra ribs. Studies have also suggested environmental exposures, such as maternal exposure to foreign chemicals or stress during pregnancy could play a role. Further research in this area is needed. There have been rare case reports of families with multiple members with cervical rib. In these families autosomal dominant inheritance was suspected. Click here to learn more about autosomal dominant inheritance.

While we were unable to find recurrence risk data that might help inform your loved ones of their risk for cervical rib and thoracic outlet syndrome, we do suggest that your family members let their healthcare provider know of their family medical history. The Surgeon General's Family History Initiative's Family Health Portrait Tool, may be a helpful resource. You can use this tool to collect, record, and share your family health history information.

Last updated on 05-01-20

How many people have thoracic outlet syndromes?

Determining the exact incidence of thoracic outlet syndromes (TOSs) is difficult because symptoms vary greatly and there is no specific test that confirms the diagnosis. Estimates of the incidence of TOSs range from 3 to 80 cases per 1000 people.

While thoracic outlets syndromes as a group are not rare, individual subtypes of TOS are considered rare.

Last updated on 05-01-20

Where To Start

The Cleveland Clinic

The The Cleveland Clinic Web site has an information page on Thoracic outlet syndromes. Click on the Cleveland Clinic link to view this page.

Last updated on 04-27-20

Mayo Clinic

Mayo Clinic has an information page on Thoracic outlet syndromes.

Last updated on 04-27-20

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons offers information on Thoracic outlet syndromes

Last updated on 04-27-20

Name: American Chronic Pain Association (ACPA) P.O. Box 850
Rocklin, CA, 95677-0850 , United States
Phone: 916-632-0922 Toll Free: 800-533-3231 Fax : 916-652-8190 Email: Url:
Name: National Rehabilitation Information Center 8201 Corporate Drive, Suite 600
Landover, MD, 20785 , United States
Phone: 301-459-5900 TTY: 301-459-5984 Toll Free: 800-346-2742 Email: Url:

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The RareGuru disease database is regularly updated using data generously provided by GARD, the United States Genetic and Rare Disease Information Center.

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