What is Subclavian Artery Thrombosis & How is it Treated?

What is Subclavian Artery Thrombosis?

Subclavian Artery Thrombosis is a pathological condition, in which there is blockage or obstruction of the subclavian artery due to a blood clot. The blockage or obstruction of the subclavian artery may also be caused due to narrowing of the artery and formation of fatty plaques resulting in Subclavian Artery Thrombosis. Subclavian Artery Thrombosis is a normally seen in elderly population, but may occur in young athletes who may also have this condition due to pressure being put by the muscles on the artery.

If Subclavian Artery Thrombosis is severe then it may result in a stroke, which can be quite a serious complication. Coming to the anatomy of the Subclavian Artery, it is situated on the upper part of the chest and is a branch of the aorta which is the largest artery in the body. There are two Subclavian Arteries, the left and the right. The left Subclavian Artery arises directly from the aorta while the right one branches off from the brachiocephalic artery, which is also a branch of the aorta.

What is Subclavian Artery Thrombosis?

What Causes Subclavian Artery Thrombosis?

Some of the causes of Subclavian Artery Thrombosis are:

Hypercoagulable State: This is one of the primary reasons for formation of blood clots anywhere in the body with the Subclavian Artery being no exception. Other than this, damage to the inner lining of the arterial wall and formation of fatty plaque are also the causes of Subclavian Artery Thrombosis. Since the anatomical position of the Subclavian Artery is such that there is every chance that it can be compressed by the muscles of the upper chest wall causing Subclavian Artery Thrombosis

Bone Abnormality: This is yet another cause for Subclavian Artery Thrombosis. Any bony abnormality near the upper chest wall tends to compress the subclavian artery resulting in Subclavian Artery Thrombosis.

Atherosclerosis: This is also one of the primary reasons for Subclavian Artery Thrombosis. In this condition, there is inflammation in the inner lining of the artery and compression from the upper chest wall muscles resulting in Subclavian Artery Thrombosis.

What are the Symptoms of Subclavian Artery Thrombosis?

The subclavian artery forms two branches and the symptoms of Subclavian Artery Thrombosis depend on where the actual blood clot is. One of the branch of the Subclavian Artery supplies blood to the arm and the other forms the branch of the vertebral artery. If the blood clot is in the branch that supplies blood to the arms then the symptoms will be pertaining to the arms with numbness and tingling in the arms, the hands will become cold, there will be pain in the hands especially with use.

If the branch of the Subclavian Artery, which itself forms a branch of the vertebral artery is affected by the blood clot then there will be neurological symptoms experienced such as dizziness, vertigo, numbness in the arms, loss of motion, and even stroke due to Subclavian Artery Thrombosis.

How is Subclavian Artery Thrombosis Diagnosed?

The description of symptoms experienced by the patient in itself will raise the suspicion of a Subclavian Artery Thrombosis. In order to confirm the diagnosis, the physician will take a detailed history of the patient as to when the symptoms started and whether the patient has a prior history of blood clots. A general physical examination will also be done where the patient will be asked to move the arm and raise it above the head to see if the patient experiences any symptoms.

Any observation of neurological symptoms and pain will be a virtual give away for a diagnosis of Subclavian Artery Thrombosis. Further tests may be carried out to confirmatively diagnose the condition and rule out other conditions that may cause similar symptoms. Some of the tests done to confirm the diagnosis of Subclavian Artery Thrombosis are:

Lab Tests: These are done to find out if there is any clotting disorder in the patient.

Radiographs: These studies in the form of CT and MRI scan are done to check whether the artery is compressed. However, the best way possible to confirm the diagnosis of Subclavian Artery Thrombosis is a study called arteriography which is done to check for any occlusion of blood flow in the subclavian artery and if it is present then it will confirm the diagnosis of Subclavian Artery Thrombosis.

How is Subclavian Artery Thrombosis Treated?

The main aim for treatment of Subclavian Artery Thrombosis is to remove the clot that is lodged in the Subclavian Artery and restore normal blood flow. This may be done through medications as well as surgery. Thrombolytic agents delivered at the site of the blockage are extremely effective in removing the clot. These agents are generally administered through a catheter. Anticoagulant therapy is started once the clot is successfully removed so as to prevent any recurrence of clots causing Subclavian Artery Thrombosis.

The surgical procedures that are quite effective in treating Subclavian Artery Thrombosis are bypass graft and decompression of muscles. Angiography is also a procedure in which after a clot is removed a stent is placed to keep the artery wide enough for smooth flow of blood through the artery and preventing future Subclavian Artery Thrombosis.

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