The Diagnostic Accuracy of Clinical Diagnostic Tests for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

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Krista M. Hixson
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Hannah B. Horris
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Tamara C. Valovich McLeod
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Cailee E. Welch Bacon
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Clinical Scenario:

Thoracic outlet syndrome is quite challenging to diagnose. Currently, there are myriad diagnostic procedures used in the diagnosis of all types of thoracic outlet syndrome. However, controversy exists over which diagnostic procedures produce accurate findings.

Clinical Question:

Can clinical diagnostic tests accurately diagnose patients presenting with symptoms of thoracic outlet syndrome?

Summary of Key Findings:

A thorough literature search returned 6 possible studies; 3 studies met the inclusion criteria and were included. Two studies supported the use of clinical diagnostic tests for the diagnosis of thoracic outlet syndrome. One study reported high false-positive rates among clinical diagnostic tests for thoracic outlet syndrome. One study reported that clinical diagnostic test findings correlate to provocative positioned magnetic resonance imaging findings.

Clinical Bottom Line:

There is moderate evidence to support the use of the Halstead maneuver (also known as the costoclavicular maneuver or exaggerated military brace test), Wright’s test, Cyriax Release test, and supraclavicular pressure test to have good diagnostic accuracy for the provocation of symptoms in patients presenting with upper extremity pathology. However, these clinical diagnostic tests do not appear to allow for the differential diagnosis of thoracic outlet syndrome exclusively. The use of the Adson’s test and Roos test should be discontinued for the differential diagnosis of thoracic outlet syndrome.

Strength of Recommendation:

Grade B evidence exists to support the accuracy of the Halstead maneuver, Wright’s test, Cyriax Release test, and supraclavicular pressure test for the diagnosis of upper extremity pathology in general. Grade C evidence exists for the use of these clinical diagnostic tests to exclusively diagnose thoracic outlet syndrome.

The authors are with Athletic Training Programs, A.T. Still University, Mesa, AZ. McLeod and Welch Bacon are also with the School of Osteopathic Medicine in Arizona, A.T. Still University, Mesa, AZ.

Welch Bacon (cwelch@atsu.edu) is corresponding author.
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