Iatrogenic thoracic outlet syndrome secondary to vertical expandable prosthetic titanium rib expansion thoracoplasty: Pathogenesis and strategies for prevention/treatment

Ahmad Nassr, Annalise Noelle Larson, Benjamin Crane, Kim W. Hammerberg, Peter F. Sturm, Steven M. Mardjetko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

11 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: An innovative treatment for thoracic insufficiency syndrome involves a vertical expansion of the chest wall through a horizontal chest wall osteotomy maintained by a distraction device (vertical expandable prosthetic titanium rib or VEPTR). Upper-extremity neurovascular dysfunction has been reported after expansion. The purposes of this study are to identify potential etiologies for compression of the brachial plexus after expansion thoracoplasty and to suggest strategies to reduce the incidence of this complication. METHODS: A simulated VEPTR procedure was performed on 8 fresh cadaveric specimens. Manometric measurements were taken in the 3 anatomic regions of the thoracic outlet after thoracotomy and rib distraction were performed. Confirmation of the location of compression was performed by placing barium-impregnated putty along the course of the brachial plexus and evaluating the effect of expansion using video fluoroscopy. A midclavicular osteotomy was then performed and video fluoroscopy repeated. RESULTS: A 20% increase in pressure was seen in the costoclavicular region of the thoracic outlet after expansion. Constriction of the midclavicular region of the thoracic outlet between the first rib and clavicle was confirmed using the putty model. Midclavicular osteotomy alleviated this region of compression. CONCLUSIONS: Expansion thoracoplasty with the VEPTR procedure causes increased pressure in the costoclavicular region of the thoracic outlet. A midclavicular osteotomy may be one method to alleviate thoracic outlet narrowing after VEPTR procedure, although the short- and long-term effects of this is procedure is not known. CLINICAL RELEVANCE: Our model supports an iatrogenic thoracic outlet syndrome caused by expansion thoracoplasty. Based on our data as well as a review of the literature, we recommend intraoperative neurologic monitoring of the ipsilateral upper extremity during the VEPTR procedure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31-34
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Pediatric Orthopaedics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2009



  • Brachial plexus injury
  • Thoracic insufficiency syndrome
  • Thoracic outlet syndrome
  • Titanium rib
  • Vertical expandable prosthetic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine

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