Symptoms and risk factors of a condition caused by repetitive arm motion
Expert Heart & Vascular Care
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Axillo-subclavian vein thrombosis, also known as Paget-Schroetter syndrome, develops when a rib or a nearby muscle presses on the axillary vein in the armpit or the subclavian vein in front of the shoulder. This rare condition is a type of thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS) caused by repetitive arm motion, particularly in athletes.
Repeated compression causes the vein to become inflamed and fibrous tissue to build up. This tissue causes the vein to narrow and restrict blood flow, leading to the formation of blood clots.
Left untreated, axillo-subclavian vein thrombosis can cause:
The specialists in our Vascular and Endovascular Program are leaders in treating venous issues with minimally invasive techniques.
What are the symptoms of axillo-subclavian vein thrombosis?
Symptoms can be vague until the vein is fairly blocked. At that time, you may experience:
- Bluish skin color
- Heaviness of the arm
- Muscle bulk that doesn’t match the other arm
- Swelling and pain in the arm
Who is at risk for axillo-subclavian vein thrombosis?
The condition can affect anyone, but you are at increased risk if you:
- Participate in sports that require repetitive arm and shoulder motions, such as baseball, softball, basketball, hockey, swimming, tennis and weightlifting
- Work in occupations that involve repetitive use of the arm, such as construction work, house painting or window washing
- Have a blood clotting disorder
- Have a central venous catheter in the subclavian vein, such as for chemotherapy or hemodialysis
- Have a pacemaker or defibrillator, because the wires pass through the area
An angiogram is a special X-ray taken as a special dye is injected through a thin, flexible tube called a catheter to detect blockages or aneurysms in blood vessels.
Chest X-rays use a small dose of radiation to create pictures of the structures inside the chest, including the lungs, heart and chest wall.
The cardiac computed tomography scan, or cardiac CT, uses X-rays to create three-dimensional images of your heart and blood vessels.
Magnetic resonance imaging, better known as cardiac MRI, is a combination of radio waves, magnets and computer technology to create images of your heart and blood vessels.
In the early stages of axillo-subclavian vein thrombosis, medication may be successful to dissolve clots (thrombolysis). In some cases, surgery may be recommended to restore blood flow or to remove the rib or muscle causing the problem.
Learn how MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute uses thoracic outlet decompression to treat thoracic outlet syndrome.