Thoracic outlet syndrome surgery is a last ditch effort used to combat severe chronic upper back pain and related neurological symptoms diagnosed as stemming from a TOS condition. Thoracic outlet syndrome is usually the result of a structural nerve or vascular tissue compression issue in the brachial plexus. Although most of these occurrences will resolve with more conservative care, some patients look to surgery to find back pain relief when all other modalities have failed.
This article will detail
invasive care practices used to treat brachial plexus compression, as
well as provide information the best ways to achieve positive
True TOS caused by a structural compression issue generally responds well to conservative therapies, compared to the vast number of misdiagnosed patients actually suffering from other structural or nonstructural sources of pain in the same region.
Many patients might actually be suffering from a spinal compressive neuropathy which has not yet been diagnosed, while others may be victimized by simple ischemia of the regional area including the brachial plexus and upper back muscles. It is for this reason that surgery should be avoided unless the patient is 100% sure that their pain is actually a direct result of muscular compression and has been told that surgery will offer them a very good chance at finding permanent relief.
Unfortunately, most cases of TOS which do not respond well to more conservative back care practices do not fare much better when surgical interventions are performed. Always remember to exhaust all non-invasive therapy options before even considering a surgical solution and be very wary of any care provider who seems to be pushing you towards a premature operation for your chronic thoracic outlet symptoms.
All back surgery procedures have inherent risks and TOS operations are not exceptions to this rule. Patients can suffer nerve damage, muscular injury, infection, health complications or poor reactions to anesthetic.
Thoracic outlet surgeries are often superficial and do not bother the actual spinal structures. Instead, they target the surrounding musculature which is often implicated in TOS nerve compression scenarios. However, these procedures can still cause massive damage to healthy tissues, especially when the condition has been mistakenly identified as coming from a structural abnormality, when all along, the pain is a result of ischemia or a spinal source.
Even if the condition is correctly diagnosed, surgery can still cause permanent trauma and functional limitations for some postoperative patients. Make sure to discuss proper rehabilitation of any TOS surgical trauma to help ensure full healing.
We virtually always advise avoiding back surgery whenever possible, since as a whole, the methods used are often barbaric, inappropriately utilized and injurious. We have seen far too many patients wind up far worse after surgery than before. They still have their pain, but now the problem is compounded by the damage done during the butchery. Failed back surgery syndrome is never pretty to witness. That being said, it is possible to realize true relief from surgical decompression of pinched nerves in the brachial plexus. These circumstances are rare, but can occur when the diagnosis is correct and the surgery is performed by an expert who understands the exact reason for the symptomatic expression.
If you do decide to proceed with surgical treatment of thoracic outlet syndrome, here are a few suggestions which can help you to achieve the best results:
First, find a surgeon you can trust. Make sure that they are fully capable of providing you with the least invasive approach to care which will successfully resolve the muscular compression problem.
Next, get a second opinion or two prior to the actual procedure to make sure the diagnostic theory makes sense.
Finally, be careful using postoperative pain management pills. These drugs can certainly control the symptoms after a procedure, but may also be dangerous and possibly addictive.
We would love to hear your stories about thoracic outlet surgery. Please consider sharing yours on the back pain forum to help other patients with their own research needs.