Superior vena cava syndrome

Associated with dyspnea, cough, facial swelling, neck and upper extremity swelling, headache and chest pain.

Symptoms can occur on an acute or gradual onset.

Patients are usually not critically ill and the process is usually not a life threatening process, but can cause significant morbidity and needs immediate attention.

CT or MRI of the thorax can provide information about the patency of the SVC and its adjacent structures, provide information for possible biopsy and potential therapy.

Treatment based on histological diagnosis.

Radiation is the mainstay of treatment, but its success depends on tumor type with 87% of patients responding to 2,0000 cGy or more.

In patients with chemosensitive tumors including germ cell tumors, small cell lung cancer, lymphomas can be treated with chemotherapy followed by radiation.

Stents can be placed for the syndrome in the superior vena cava to reduce symptoms rapidly.

Benign conditions maybe associated with this syndrome and stent placement can be very helpful in these situations.

May occur as a result of thrombosis from a central venous catheter.

Stenosis of the superior vena cava may occur with central venous catheters and may be treated with fluoroscopy guided balloon dilation without stenting.

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