Thoracic outlet syndrome is a condition that has recently been gaining more recognition from doctors as more cases have been appearing over the last 10 years. This long-lasting and painful condition can cause significant hardship in someone's life by limiting their mobility and affecting their ability to work. This condition is known to be caused by physical trauma, sometimes being referred to as "post-traumatic thoracic outlet syndrome". If you were recently involved in a car accident, fall, or job injury as a result of someone else's actions, you may be entitled to full compensation for the suffering you have endured. Read below to find out more about this syndrome, its causes, and the types of settlements given to victims.What is Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
Thoracic outlet syndrome is not just one condition, but rather a collection of disorders that have various symptoms depending on the type. The thoracic outlet is a passageway located in the space beneath your clavicle and the first rib that houses a bundle of blood vessels and nerves called the brachial plexus.
The brachial plexus stems from your spinal cord and connects the nerves to your shoulder, arm, and hand. The syndrome begins when the thoracic outlet is compressed in some way, resulting in symptoms such as pain, numbness, tingling, and discoloration. The three types of thoracic outlet syndrome include neurogenic, vascular, and non-specific.
- Neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrome: This is the most common type of thoracic outlet syndrome. With neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrome the nerves in the brachial plexus are compressed which affects the movement and sensation of the arm and hand.
- Vascular thoracic outlet syndrome: This form of the syndrome occurs when the veins or arteries of the brachial plexus are compressed, which is also known as venous thoracic outlet syndrome or arterial thoracic outlet syndrome. This causes constriction with the amount of the blood being transported down to the arm and hand.
- Non-specific thoracic outlet syndrome: The final type of thoracic outlet syndrome is known as "non-specific" because patients experience the same symptoms as other types, but there is no specific known cause. Doctors have differing opinions on whether or not this type actually exists, but patients experiencing chronic pain and loss of sensation in the same affected area can still be diagnosed with this.
Different types of the syndrome can cause different symptoms, but some may overlap, especially for non-specific. Symptoms of neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrome include:
- Numbness or tingling in the hands or fingers
- Pain and aching in the shoulder, neck, arm, or hand
- Weak grip in hand and fingers
- Muscle wasting
Symptoms of vascular thoracic outlet syndrome include:
- Discoloration of the hand or fingers
- Swelling of the arm
- Blood clots in the arm
- Coldness in the fingers or arm
- Weak or no pulse in the arm
- Throbbing pain in the arm or neck
- Activity-induced fatigue from arm movement
- Weakness in arm or neck
Thoracic outlet syndrome can be a chronic or lifelong condition. Treating this syndrome can also be a challenge, as patients often have to try different types of treatments to find what is most effective for them. Physical and occupational therapy can be helpful for some, but prove to be ineffective for others. In some cases, surgery is needed, which can present a list of possible risks and the prospect that there will be minimal improvement.Post-Traumatic Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
There are several different causes of thoracic outlet syndrome, with some originating from natural causes such as pregnancy or anatomical defects. However, it has been shown that different types of trauma can also cause this syndrome and its effects can be severe. The evidence for thoracic outlet syndrome is still developing, but emerging studies are proving how car accidents, falls, and lifting injuries can initiate the syndrome.
Car accidents are one of the most commonly reported causes of how someone developed thoracic outlet syndrome. This is generally believed to arise from whiplash that occurs during an accident. Specifically, when the neck experiences a great deal of pressure or trauma in either a forward or backward motion, it can cause the internal nerves and veins in that area to become dislocated and therefore compressed. This condition can be exacerbated if the clavicle is damaged or fractured during the accident.
Falls are another common cause of thoracic outlet syndrome. There is no specific type of fall that can guarantee the development of the condition, but most cases usually involve some type of direct trauma to the neck or clavicle region. It is believed that a fall can actually damage the nerves and veins in the brachial plexus, which can be permanent.
Different kind of job injuries or repetitive strain can also cause thoracic outlet syndrome. Some cases involving this syndrome cite the condition beginning after an accident occurred on the job from a person having to constantly lift objects above their head. Other jobs that involve continuous strain on a person's hands or arms, such as typing on a computer or working on an assembly line, can cause the condition as well.Thoracic Outlet Syndrome Settlements and Verdicts
Taking a thoracic outlet syndrome claim to court can be a daunting process. The syndrome is not well known, the evidence for its existence is still being studied, and there are other similar conditions that present the same symptoms. When going through with a thoracic outlet syndrome personal injury case, there should first be a careful and thorough examination of the condition by a doctor to record the symptoms and confirm a person's diagnosis.
For this kind of condition, it's important to hire an attorney that is equipped with the adequate medical knowledge needed to prove a person's injury in court. At Miller & Zois, our attorneys are highly qualified and adept at articulating new or relatively unknown conditions and working with their physician personally to ensure proper compensation for the victim. There have been many cases involving thoracic outlet syndrome that has resulted in thousands of dollars in earnings.Sample Cases
- 2017 Maryland $60,000 Verdict: After a rear-end collision with the plaintiff and her son in the back seat, the plaintiff developed thoracic outlet syndrome which caused her significant pain and suffering and thousands of dollars in medical bills. The plaintiff claimed the defendant was negligent by failing to control their speed and failing to keep a proper lookout. The defendant disputed the claims but was found at fault and the jury awarded $60,000 to the plaintiff.
- 2016 Maryland $30,000 Verdict: The plaintiff was stopped at a red light in an intersection when the defendant behind her failed to stop and rear-ended the vehicle. As a result, the plaintiff suffered from both neurogenic and vascular thoracic outlet syndrome, which included numbness, tingling, and weakness in the arm that required surgery. The plaintiff also complained of chronic neck pain and headaches. The defendant was accused of negligence for using excessive speed, failing to stop, and failing to keep a proper lookout. The defendant was found at fault for causing the accident and the plaintiff was awarded $30,000 for her injuries.
- 2015 Maryland $70,000 Verdict: As the plaintiff was slowly coming to a stop at an intersection, the defendant driving behind her failed to stop and rear-ended her. The plaintiff then developed thoracic outlet syndrome, which caused painful muscle spasms requiring two separate surgeries to correct. Defendant disputed causation noting that the impact was minor causing only $500 in property damages. Defendant also took issue with the extent of the alleged damages, arguing that physical therapy would have been adequate to fix the condition and the surgery was unnecessary. The jury disagreed with the defendant and awarded the plaintiff $70,000.
- 2013 Maryland $2,500 Verdict: The plaintiff was stopped at a yield sign waiting to merge when defendant rear-ended him. The plaintiff developed thoracic outlet syndrome along with a rotator cuff injury and soft tissue injuries to his spine. His injuries prevented him from working which gave him significant emotional distress. Defendant disputed damages and also asserted a contributory negligence defense on the grounds that plaintiff allegedly stopped suddenly and without warning. The jury still found the defendant at fault but only awarded $2,500.
- 2005, Maryland $5,329 Verdict: The plaintiff was driving towards an intersection and was beginning to stop at a red light when the defendant driving behind him rear-ended the vehicle. The accident caused the plaintiff to develop thoracic outlet syndrome and he claimed thousands in lost wages and medical bills. The defendant denied fault for the accident, claiming the accident was unavoidable due to his brakes not responding properly. The defendant's medical expert also contended that the plaintiff's injuries were inconsistent with thoracic outlet syndrome, but the plaintiff's doctor refuted this and cited his symptoms. The jury voted in favor of the plaintiff but only awarded him $5,329.
- 2003, Maryland $7,550 Verdict: The plaintiff suffered from thoracic outlet syndrome after his northbound vehicle was hit by the defendant's southbound vehicle while the plaintiff was turning left onto a public roadway. The defendant denied complete responsibility and asserted contributory negligence. The jury ruled in favor of the plaintiff and awarded $7,550.
The average settlement value for a personal injury case involving thoracic outlet syndrome in Maryland is around $20,000 to $60,000, depending on the severity and other factors.
Yes. Sudden physical trauma from an auto accident is one of the most common causes of thoracic outlet syndrome. When caused by a car accident the condition is sometimes referred to as “post-traumatic thoracic outlet syndrome.”
Thoracic outlet syndrome is diagnosed through a combination of physical examination and medical imaging studies including ultrasound, MRI and CT Scans. Sometimes a nerve conduction study is also performed to evaluate or confirm the presence of nerve damage.
Treatment for thoracic outlet syndrome usually involves a combination of physical therapy and pain medications. In some more serious cases, surgery may be required.
If you have suffered thoracic outlet syndrome as a result of an auto accident or other type of accident caused by someone's negligence, contact the personal injury lawyers at Miller & Zois for a free consultation. Call us at 800-553-8082 or contact us online.