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Talutis SD, Gelabert HA, O'Connell J, Ulloa JG. When Healing Hands Hurt: Epidemiology of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome Among Physicians. Annals of vascular surgery. 2023 Jan 1; 88:18-24.
BACKGROUND: Thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS) is an infrequent condition which results in disability in use of upper extremity. While TOS is often associated with manual labor, industrial workers, and accidents, it has not been reported in a physician (MD) population. Given the investment of time and effort in training to become a MD, the impact of TOS may be devastating. Our objective is to report the presentation and outcome of TOS in MDs. METHODS: A prospectively surgical database was reviewed for MDs who sought care of disabling TOS between 1997 and 2022. Demographic, clinical, outcome and pathological data were reviewed. Outcomes were assessed based on Somatic Pain Scale (SPS), Quick Disabilities of Arm, Shoulder and Hand (DASH) scores, and Derkash scores. Results were also assessed based on return to employment. RESULTS: A total of 19 MDs were identified, from 1,687 TOS cases. The group included 13 (63%) men, 6 (31%) women, average age 45 years (range 27-57). Presentations included 1 (5.3%) arterial TOS (ATOS), 9 (47.4%) venous TOS (VTOS), and 9 (47.4) neurogenic TOS (NTOS). All patients were right-handed, and symptomatic side was dominant hand in 7 (37%) patients. Etiologies included repetitive motion injury, athletic injury, and congenital bony abnormalities. Repetitive motion was associated with 3/9 (33%) NTOS. Significant athletic activities were noted in 12 of 19 (63%) MDs, including 8/9 (89%) VTOS and 4/9 (44%) NTOS. Athletic activities associated with VTOS included triathletes (2), rock climbing (1), long distance swimming (2), and weightlifting (3). Of the 9 NTOS cases, 3 were associated with weightlifting and 1 with skiing. Congenital causes included 1 (5%) abnormal first rib and 1 (5%) cervical rib. Time from symptom onset to consultation varied significantly according to diagnosis: ATOS 6 days, VTOS 97 days, and NTOS 2,335 days (P < 0.05). All underwent first rib resection (FRR), and 4 (4) patients required contralateral FRR. Time from surgery to last follow-up averaged 1,005 days (range: 37-4,535 days). On presentation, 6 patients were work disabled and 13 patients were work restricted. Following surgery, 4 MDs remained work restricted with mild to moderate symptoms. After surgery, standardized outcomes (SPS, Quick DASH, and Derkash score) improved in all metrics. All who were initially disabled returned to work without restriction. Significant non-TOS related comorbidities were present in all who had residual restriction. Return to work was documented in all. CONCLUSIONS: Although it has not been reported, MDs are subject to developing TOS. Causes include repetitive motions, athletic injuries, and congenital bony abnormalities. Surgical decompression is beneficial with significant reduction in pain and disability. MDs are highly motivated and insightful; accordingly, they have a very high probability of successful work resumption, with all returning to their medical positions.