Quantitative Assessment of Scalene Muscle Block for the Diagnosis of Suspected Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

Published:September 28, 2015DOI:


      To measure changes in upper limb work and power capacity before and after anterior scalene muscle block (ASMB) to suggest thoracic outlet syndrome caused by costoclavicular space compression.


      We evaluated 34 patients disabled by symptoms suggesting thoracic outlet syndrome. An ASMB was performed via a supraclavicular injection. The sternocleidomastoid muscle was injected as a control. We captured data obtained from work simulator measurements before and after ASMB. Each patient performed a push–pull test with the forearm at waist level (test 1), an overhead bar push–pull test with the arm elevated (test 2), and the extremity abduction stress test with repetitive hand gripping during static arm elevation (test 3). We measured the work product, time to fatigue, and power generation. Sensory testing was performed after ASMB to rule out improved performance associated with possible sensory nerve block.


      In contrast to sternocleidomastoid injection controls, symptomatic and functional improvement was noted in all patients (n = 34) after ASMB. Work product measurement improved 93%, 108%, and 104% for tests 1, 2, and 3, respectively. Time to fatigue and power output also increased after the block.


      Temporary symptomatic improvement after ASMB may be anticipated in patients with TOS. This study documents a significant concurrent increase in upper limb motor function after the block. Increased work and power measurements after ASMB may draw diagnostic inference regarding a dynamic change in the scalene muscle and the costoclavicular space associated with symptomatic thoracic outlet syndrome.

      Type of study/level of evidence

      Diagnostic III.

      Key words

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