First Rib Resection and Scalenectomy for Chronically Occluded Subclavian Veins: What Does It Really Do?

Ricardo de León, David C. Chang, Christopher Busse, Diana Call, Julie Ann Freischlag

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


First rib resection and scalenectomy is an acceptable therapy for those with axillosubclavian vein thrombosis who have responded to lytic therapy and demonstrated subclavian vein patency. However, the treatment for those patients who present with a chronically occluded subclavian vein is controversial. We present four such patients who underwent first rib resection and scalenectomy and whose subclavian vein spontaneously opened within the first year following surgery while anticoagulated, as well as the ultrasound protocol we employ at our institution to identify such reopening. The average age of these patients was 20 (range 17-23) years; three were male and one was female. The average time interval prior to surgery when the initial thrombosis occurred was 25 (12-34) weeks. All patients were symptomatic and underwent a transaxillary first rib resection and scalenectomy with attention to incise the subclavius tendon. All were maintained on warfarin postoperatively and surveilled by duplex scan. In all four patients the subclavian vein subsequently opened after an average of 7 (2-11) months and anticoagulation was stopped. The resultant patent subclavian vein correlated with improvement in symptoms in all four patients. All patients were asymptomatic in the postoperative follow-up period at an average of 14 (2-33 months). In conclusion, selective symptomatic patients with subclavian vein occlusion can be aggressively treated with first rib resection and scalenectomy along with anticoagulation that will lead to recanalization and opening of vein over time. This treatment correlates with improvement of their symptoms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)395-401
Number of pages7
JournalAnnals of Vascular Surgery
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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