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TRUE NEUROLOGICAL THORACIC OUTLET SYNDROME: 10 CASES

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The thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS) encompasses various clinical entities affecting the neurovascular bundle crossing the thoracic outlet. Unfortunately, this term often proves to be confusing because many of these entities have little in common beyond their known or presumed lesion site. Neurogenic TOS (true TOS) is caused by compression of the lower trunk in the brachial plexus, the cervical ribs or fibrous band. This syndrome is extremely rare. We consider that this neurological form of TOS is a clearly defined neurological syndrome. We report 10 patients with true TOS. All were females. Stating the onset was difficult because symptoms were progressive and insidious. Pain was the most frequently reported symptom. Sensory deficit was slight or absent. All patients showed unilateral severe atrophy of the thenar muscles. Wasting and weakness developed later. A reduced amplitude of ulnar and median compound muscle action potential associated with a normal amplitude of median sensory nerve action and a reduced amplitude of ulnar sensory nerve action potential were indicative of a chronic axon loss in the lower trunk of the brachial plexus. In all cases, we performed medial antebrachial cutaneous sensory nerve action potential, a C8-T1 innervated nerve. The absence of the medial antebrachial cutaneous sensory nerve action potential in 9 patients and a reduction in amplitude of 50 p. 100 compared to the unaffected side in the other patient indicated the diagnostic value of this easy and reproducible test. It confirmed a C8-T1 post-ganglionic radicular lesion or a lower brachial plexus neuropathy. Radiography showed a rudimentary bilateral cervical rib or an elongated C7 transverse process in all cases. Surgery was performed in the affected side in 7 patients and in each case the lower part of the brachial plexus was found to be stretched and angulated over a fibrous band, which was removed. Pain was relieved after 1 to 4 weeks. A minimal motor improvement was observed after one year. Electrophysiological results were unchanged.
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Document Type: Abstract

Affiliations: Revue Neurologique 156: 34–40, 2000. Reprinted with permission from Masson Editeur.

Publication date: December 1, 2000

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