A Single Institution 30-Year Review of Abnormal First Rib Resection for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

Mark J. Ajalat, Joe L. Pantoja, Jesus G. Ulloa, Michael J. Cheng, Rhusheet P. Patel, Tristen T. Chun, Hugh A. Gelabert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: Congenital abnormalities of the first rib (ABNFR) are a rare cause of thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS). The range of abnormalities have not been clearly documented in the literature. Surgical decompression in these patients presents with increased complexity secondary to anomalous anatomy. Our goal is to review an institutional experience of first rib resection (FRR) performed for ABNFRs, to present a novel classification system, and to analyze outcomes according to clinical presentation. Methods: A prospectively collected database was used to identify individuals with ABNFRs who underwent FRR for TOS between 1990-2021. These individuals were identified both by preoperative imaging and intraoperative descriptions of the first rib after resection. Demographic, clinical, perioperative and pathological data were reviewed. ABNFRs were classified into 3 categories according to anatomical criteria: (I) Hypoplastic, (II) Fused, and (III) Hyperplastic. Outcomes were rated using the standardized Quick Disability of Arm Shoulder and Hand Scores (QDS), Somatic Pain Scores (SPS) and Derkash Scores (DkS). Results: Among the 2200 cases of TOS, there were 19 patients (0.8%) with ABNFR who underwent FRR. Average age at surgery was 30.5 (range 11–74), including 13 men and 6 women. Presentations included 9 arterial (ATOS), 6 neurogenic (NTOS), and 4 venous (VTOS) cases. There were 6 class I, 6 class II, and 7 class III ABNFRs. Among 6 NTOS patients there were 4 abnormal nerve conduction tests and 5 positive anterior scalene muscle blocks. Among the 9 patients with ATOS, thrombolysis was attempted in 5 patients, and of these, 3 ultimately required surgical thrombectomy. Of 4 VTOS cases, 2 were managed with thrombolysis, and 2 with anticoagulation alone. The approach for FRR was transaxillary in all patients. Secondary procedures included 1 pectoralis minor tenotomy, 1 scalenectomy, and 1 contralateral rib resection. No major neurological or vascular complications occurred. There was 1 patient who required surgical evacuation of a hematoma. Intraoperative chest tube placement was required in 5 patients secondary to pleural entry during dissection. There was an overall improvement in symptoms over an average follow-up of 7.4 months. QDS reduced from 49.7 pre-op to 22.1 (P < 0.05). SPS improved from 3.4 pre-op to 1.8. DkS scores were good to excellent in 79% of patients. Residual symptoms were noted in 7, and ATOS accounted for 5 (70%) of these. All patients were able to return to work. Conclusions: Despite increased complexity, ABNFRs may be safely resected via transaxillary approach with low incidence of complications, very good symptom relief, and excellent outcomes. Congenital ABNFRs may by classified into 3 categories (hypoplastic, fused, and hyperplastic) with a variety of presentations, including ATOS, NTOS, and VTOS. Classification of ABNFRs allows concise description of abnormal anatomy which facilitates comparison between series and provides direction for surgical management to ultimately optimize patient outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAnnals of Vascular Surgery
StateAccepted/In press - 2022
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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