3 Types of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
Types of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome are Unique
Doctors and authorities typically define three types of thoracic outlet syndrome. In this framework, each type of TOS gets defined by the primary structure that is affected. Specifically, the three primary structures that pass through each thoracic outlet are an artery, a vein and a nerve plexus. Thus, the three classic types of TOS are arterial TOS, venous TOS, and neurogenic TOS.
To clarify, each of the three types of TOS is defined by the vital structure that is compressed in the thoracic outlet:
Subclavian Artery: Arterial TOS
Subclavian Vein: Venous TOS
Brachial Plexus: Neurogenic TOS
In general, different signs and symptoms result from compression of each of the three vital structures noted above. However, in practice, doctors often find a more confusion picture. Frequently, more than one vital structure suffers from compression. So, many TOS patients have a dominant TOS type, but with additional components of the other types of TOS.
For the purposes of learning about the three major types of TOS, we will discuss each type of TOS separately. Following that discussion, we will go over how a patient can develop multiple types of TOS.
What are the 3 Types of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome?
Types of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome: Neurogenic TOS
Neurogenic TOS is by far the most common type of TOS. At the same time, neurogenic TOS is the most difficult type of TOS to diagnose. Patients often cycle through many doctors, and many specialities, before they receive the correct diagnosis. And, unfortunately, in many cases, doctors may not even make the correct diagnosis. So patients with neurogenic TOS often suffer needlessly for years.
Types of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome: Venous TOS
Venous TOS is an uncommon type of TOS. Venous TOS occurs when a blood clot forms in the large vein that drains the arm. Doctors should suspect this type of TOS when a patient presents with arm swelling and color changes. Many available diagnostic tests can easily demonstrate the blood clot. Treatment of this type of TOS is urgent, and doctors usually strive to dissolve the blood clot quickly.
Types of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome: Arterial TOS
Arterial TOS is the rarest type of TOS. This type of TOS occurs when compression of the subclavian artery causes arterial damage, with secondary blood clot causing symptoms. Blood clot forms in the damaged arterial segment, and fragments travel down the arm, creating the sudden severe blockage of blood flow. Doctors must recognize this type of TOS quickly, and treat it by removing the clot emergently.