Adson's sign

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Adson's sign

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]


Adson's sign is seen during abduction and external rotation at the shoulder, where there is loss of the radial pulse in the arm. It can be a sign of thoracic outlet syndrome. Thoracic outlet obstruction may be caused by a number of abnormalities, including degenerative or bony disorders, trauma to the cervical spine, fibromuscular bands, vascular abnormalities, and spasm of the anterior scalene muscle. Symptoms are due to compression of the brachial plexus and subclavian vasculature, and consist of complaints ranging from diffuse arm pain to a sensation of arm fatigue, frequently aggravated by carrying anything in the ipsilateral hand or doing overhead work such as window cleaning.

As cited in the literature the Adson's sign is loss of radial pulse while turning the head to the contralateral side, slightly elevating the chin and breathing in.


Common Causes

Causes by Organ System

Cardiovascular No underlying causes
Chemical/Poisoning No underlying causes
Dental No underlying causes
Dermatologic No underlying causes
Drug Side Effect No underlying causes
Ear Nose Throat No underlying causes
Endocrine No underlying causes
Environmental No underlying causes
Gastroenterologic No underlying causes
Genetic No underlying causes
Hematologic No underlying causes
Iatrogenic No underlying causes
Infectious Disease No underlying causes
Musculoskeletal/Orthopedic Thoracic outlet syndrome
Neurologic No underlying causes
Nutritional/Metabolic No underlying causes
Obstetric/Gynecologic No underlying causes
Oncologic No underlying causes
Ophthalmologic No underlying causes
Overdose/Toxicity No underlying causes
Psychiatric No underlying causes
Pulmonary No underlying causes
Renal/Electrolyte No underlying causes
Rheumatology/Immunology/Allergy No underlying causes
Sexual No underlying causes
Trauma No underlying causes
Urologic No underlying causes
Miscellaneous No underlying causes

Causes in Alphabetical Order

How to perform Adson's Test?

With the patient in a sitting position, hands resting on thighs, the examiner palpates both radial pulses as The patient rapidly fills the lungs by deep inspiration and, with breath held, hyperextends the neck and turns the head toward the 'affected' side. If the radial pulse on that side is decidedly or completely obliterated, the result is considered positive.

See also


  • Dorland's Medical Dictionary

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