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Diagnosing thoracic outlet syndrome can be difficult because the symptoms and their severity can vary greatly from person to person. Therefore, it’s recommended that you are seen by a doctor who is very familiar with this condition. To confirm a diagnosis, your doctor will review your medical history, perform a physical exam and review the results of specific tests that are used to diagnose thoracic outlet syndrome. These tests may include:

  • X-rays of the neck or shoulder
  • Ultrasound is a non-invasive test that uses sound waves to create a picture of blood flow through arteries and veins of the arm (sometimes called Doppler or ultrasound duplex imaging)
  • CT scan will often be ordered if it’s thought that the subclavian artery is involved. This test, which takes a series of cross-section X-ray images, provides excellent pictures of the relationship between the blood vessels and the bones in the chest and shoulder. CT scan may also be used both for diagnosis and operative planning.
  • MRI uses radio waves and a powerful magnetic field to produce detailed images of internal structures. This can also provide a direct look at the nerves in the arm and shoulder.
  • Other tests such as venography, arteriography, nerve conduction velocity test, and pulse volume recordings may also be performed.