Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

Thoracic outlet syndrome is a group of disorders that occur when the blood vessels or nerves in the space between the collarbone and the first rib become compressed. This can cause pain in the neck and shoulders and numbness in fingers. Typically, physical treatment for thoracic outlet syndrome usually involves physical therapy and pain relief measures, but sometimes surgery is needed.

Tests and diagnosis

  • Physical examination is when your doctor will conduct a general physical exam to look for visual indications of disease, such as swelling or color change.
  • Imaging tests: Physicians use a combination of X-ray, MRI, PET, and CT scans to view your entire chest in order to accurately diagnose thoracic outlet syndrome.
  • Provocation tests is when a doctor tries to induce certain symptoms in an effort to rule out other conditions. You will be asked to move your limbs and neck in order to temporarily aggravate the condition.
  • Arteriography and venography is when a tiny catheter is inserted through a blood vessel in your groin and guided to the affected area. Dye is injected and X-rays are taken in order to view your blood vessels.


  • Transaxillary surgery involves removing a portion of your first rib to relieve compression of nerves or vessels in that area.

Contact us

Undiagnosed or no referral

If you have not been formally diagnosed yet, call (412) DOCTORS (412) 362-8677 to see your primary care provider to explore all possible causes of your symptoms. All thoracic procedures require a referral from a provider before scheduling.

Scheduling a procedure

If you have a referral for a thoracic procedure, contact the team at the facility where you want to have the procedure completed:

Allegheny General Hospital
320 East North Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15212

(412) 359-6137

Forbes Hospital
2570 Haymaker Road
Monroeville, PA 15146

(412) 858-7088

Jefferson Hospital
565 Coal Valley Road
Jefferson Hills, PA 15025

(412) 469-7900

Saint Vincent Hospital
232 West 25th Street
Erie, PA 16544

(814) 453-7767