Point-of-Care Ultrasound in the Diagnosis of Venous Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

Published:September 10, 2022DOI:



      Clinicians trained in point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) use the tool to enhance diagnostic capabilities at the bedside, often excluding or diagnosing conditions that are suspected based on the history and physical examination. Thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS) involves compression of arteries and nerves between the clavicle and first rib causing pain and paresthesia in the affected limbs. To our knowledge, use of POCUS to diagnose TOS in the literature has not been described.

      Case Report

      A 46-year-old man presented with left upper extremity (LUE) edema, pain, and paresthesia, which was progressive over 3 weeks. Examination of the LUE revealed diffuse swelling without erythema and a left radial pulse present on Doppler only. A subsequent POCUS examination of the LUE was performed to exclude a deep vein thrombosis, and enlarged and turbulent veins distal to the internal jugular vein were found, which suggested venous compression external to the veins. Additional imaging confirmed narrowing of the subclavian vein and a diagnosis of venous thoracic outlet syndrome (vTOS) was made.

      Why Should an Emergency Physician Be Aware of This?

      Failure to promptly diagnose and treat TOS can lead to long-term chronic upper extremity pain and even permanent disability. Diagnosis of vascular TOS is often made using computed tomography to identify impinged vessels, although color Doppler sonography can be an excellent choice for initial imaging in patients with suspected vTOS. Although POCUS is being used increasingly as a diagnostic tool and for procedural guidance, our case represents a novel application of POCUS in the diagnosis of vTOS.


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