Digital biomarkers for the objective assessment of disability in neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrome

Bijan Najafi, Mohsen Zahiri, Changhong Wang, Anmol Momin, Paul Paily, Bryan M. Burt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrome (nTOS) is a musculoskeletal disorder in which compression of the brachial plexus between the scalene muscles of the neck and the first rib results in disabling upper extremity pain and paresthesia. Currently there are no objective metrics for assessing the disability of nTOS or for monitoring response to its therapy. We aimed to develop digital biomarkers of upper extremity motor capacity that could objectively measure the disability of nTOS using an upper arm inertial sensor and a 20-s upper extremity task that provokes nTOS symptoms. We found that digital biomarkers of slowness, power, and rigidity statistically differentiated the affected extremities of patients with nTOS from their contralateral extremities (n = 16) and from the extremities of healthy controls (n = 13); speed and power had the highest effect sizes. Digital biomarkers representing slowness, power, and rigidity correlated with patient-reported outcomes collected with the Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand (DASH) questionnaire and the visual analog scale of pain (VAS); speed had the highest correlation. Digital biomarkers of exhaustion correlated with failure of physical therapy in treating nTOS; and digital biomarkers of slowness, power, and exhaustion correlated with favorable response to nTOS surgery. In conclusion, sensor-derived digital biomarkers can objectively assess the impairment of motor capacity resultant from nTOS, and correlate with patient-reported symptoms and response to therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number7462
Issue number22
StatePublished - Nov 1 2021


  • Digital health
  • Disability
  • Sensors
  • Thoracic outlet syndrome
  • Upper extremity
  • Wearables

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Information Systems
  • Biochemistry
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Instrumentation
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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