Thoracic outlet syndrome

Not all people with a cervical rib will develop thoracic outlet syndrome, andthoracic outlet syndrome can also be caused by other conditions.

Twomajor blood vessels (the subclavian artery and subclavianvein)and a bunch of nerves called the brachial plexus pass over the cervical rib. They run througha narrow space at the base of the necktowards the armpit and arm.

A cervical rib will only cause any symptoms if it is squashing these blood vessels or nerves.

Symptoms ofthoracic outlet syndrome

If the extra rib does press on a vessel or nerve, you may haveany of the following symptoms:

  • pain in the shoulder and neck, which spreads into the arm this may come and go or be constant
  • moments where you lose feeling and have weakness or tingling in the affected arm and fingers
  • moments where you can't carry out fine hand movements , such as doing up buttons
  • Raynaud's phenomenon , where the blood vessels go into a temporary spasm, affecting blood supply to the fingers and toes (turning them white)
  • a blood clot forming in the subclavian artery , which can affect the blood supply to the fingers, causing small patches of red or black discolouration
  • swelling in the affected arm (although this is rare)

These symptoms vary widely from person to person: they may be mild or severe, be persistent or come and go.

Thoracic outlet syndrome usually starts between the ages of 20 and 50 years old, and women are more likely than men to have it.

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 21 Dec 2018