Thoracic outlet syndrome refers to a group of symptoms caused by the compression or irritation of the nerves and blood vessels in the thoracic area between the neck and abdomen, where the heart and lungs are. The term 'thoracic' refers to the middle area of the back, and the thoracic vertebrae are the twelve spinal vertebrae of the back that correspond to the twelve ribs of the thorax. Symptoms include numbness, tingling, and weakness of the arms and hands; pain and tightness in the shoulder and neck; chest pain; headaches; dizziness; and ear pain. Treatment may involve physical therapy, pain medication, or-- in severe cases-- surgery. A new device, called a 'C-E Vascular Machine,' which can be used to diagnose thoracic outlet syndrome, is currently under consideration by the F-D-A. It's an instrument that works by evaluating minute amounts of air pressure changes that occur in a sensing cuff, which are amplified and filtered to make it possible to measure arterial blood flow. If you have symptoms of thoracic outlet syndrome, contact a health care professional for a diagnosis and for treatment information.
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