Moves in Medicine: Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

ByHeather Grubola via WPVI logo
Monday, October 7, 2019
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Moves in Medicine: Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. Sarah Bloomquist reports during Action News at Noon on October 7, 2019.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- A Franklin County woman thought lingering pain from a car accident was normal, but when it worsened and her hand started turning colors she turned to Temple Health.

"I'm very active. I was going to the gym and training for a tough mudder when my accident happened. I garden fanatically - I have a big cut flower garden and a vegetable garden. We hike, we snowboard. We're a very, very active family," said Ivy Hartzok of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.

Hartzok was suffering from pain in her neck, shoulder, arm and hand from a car accident she had back in 2017.

"I had a lot of pain through here and felt like maybe my pinky was broken because it was so tender at the tip. And I had tingling and numbness," she explained.

At times her hand would turn blue. The pain was forcing her to cut out all of her physical activities. After going through a series of doctors, Ivy was finally diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome.

"I definitely had it but there was nothing I could do," she said.

Then Hartzok found vascular surgeon Dr. Scott Golarz at Temple Health through a support group on Facebook.

"The thoracic outlet is the small narrow anatomic space that leads from what is basically inside the chest, out to the arm, chest and shoulder," explained Dr. Golarz. "It's in this window that compression of those structures can occur."

The normal course of treatment begins with physical therapy. But that didn't give Hartzok the relief she wanted so Dr. Golarz suggested a surgical procedure called supraclavicular thoracic outlet decompression.

"It's basically going above the level of the clavicle, making your incision here and then removing the muscles surrounding the brachial plexus as well as the first rib," he said.

This is followed by more physical therapy.

Three months post-surgery, Hartzok is back working in the garden she loves.

"He absolutely changed my life. I've told him he's my new superhero. Like he completely made my life better," she said.