Neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrome (nTOS) is an uncommon compression syndrome of the brachial plexus that presents with pain, sensory changes, and motor weakness in the affected limb. The authors reviewed the clinical presentations and outcomes in their series of pediatric patients with surgically treated nTOS over a 6-year period.
Cases of nTOS in patients age 18 years or younger were extracted for analysis from a prospective database of peripheral nerve operations. Baseline patient characteristics, imaging and neurophysiological data, operative findings, and outcomes and complications were assessed.
Twelve patients with 14 cases of nTOS surgically treated between April 2010 and December 2016 were identified. One-third of the patients were male, and 2 male patients underwent staged, bilateral procedures. Disabling pain (both local and radiating) was the most common presenting symptom (100%), followed by numbness (35.7%), then tingling (28.6%). The mean duration of symptoms prior to surgery was 15.8 ± 6.6 months (mean ± SD). Sports-related onset of symptoms was seen in 78.6% of cases. Imaging revealed cervical ribs in 4 cases, prominent C-7 transverse processes in 4 cases, abnormal first thoracic ribs in 2 cases, and absence of bony anomalies in 4 cases. Neurophysiological testing results were normal in 85.7% of cases. Conservative management failed in all patients, with 5 patients reporting minimal improvement in symptoms with physical therapy. With a mean follow-up after surgery of 22 ± 18.3 months (mean ± SD), pain relief was excellent (> 90%) in 8 cases (57.1%), and good (improved > 50%) in 6 cases (42.9%). On univariate analysis, patients who reported excellent pain resolution following surgery at long-term follow-up were found to be significantly younger, and to have suffered a shorter duration of preoperative symptoms than patients who had worse outcomes. Lack of significant trauma or previous surgery to the affected arm was also associated with excellent outcomes. There were 4 minor complications in 3 patients within 30 days of surgery: 1 patient developed a small pneumothorax that resolved spontaneously; 1 patient suffered a transient increase in pain requiring consultation, followed by hiccups for a period of 3 hours that resolved spontaneously; and 1 patient fell at home, with transient increased pain in the surgically treated extremity. There were no new neurological deficits, wound infections, deep vein thromboses, or readmissions.
Pediatric nTOS commonly presents with disabling pain and is more frequently associated with bony anomalies compared with adult nTOS. In carefully selected patients, surgical decompression of the brachial plexus results in excellent pain relief, which is more likely to be seen in younger patients who present for early surgical evaluation.