Thoracic Outlet Syndrome Program | Patient Resources

Questions about surgery

We take a conservative approach whenever possible and treat thoracic outlet syndrome with physical therapy and medication. If you do need surgery, our goal will be to get you back to normal function as soon as possible.

Procedures before surgery

You may need a catheter angiogram to evaluate the state and severity of the obstruction. This typically involves placing a small catheter into a blood vessel through which a clinician will inject dye in order to create clear images of the tissues surrounding your thoracic outlet.

If clots are detected, the catheter will be left in place to deliver medication to break up the clots. This process may take several hours and you will be monitored in an appropriate setting. The following day, a repeat angiogram will be performed to evaluate the state of the clot. If the clot is still there, additional steps known as mechanical clot busting may be needed. This involves a gentle opening of the narrowed vessel segment with angioplasty. You will be under sedation or general anesthesia for these procedures. 

Length of hospital stay

You will need to stay in the hospital for several days after the surgery for your recovery and pain control. In some cases, another procedure using a catheter in the blood vessels may be performed while you are in the hospital to evaluate your blood vessels. 

Postoperative recovery

Physical therapy will be important after surgery to help you regain function, stabilize your shoulder and help you get back to normal function. Physical therapy also helps minimize pain and the recurrence of symptoms. You will need to restrict your arm motion for at least 6 weeks after surgery while undergoing physical therapy.

If you needed a blood-thinning medication before surgery, this will continue for at least six weeks after the surgery to allow your blood vessels to heal completely.