Superior vena cava syndrome

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Superior vena cava syndrome (SVCS) is caused by restriction of blood flow in the superior vena cava. Annual incidence is approximately 5/100 000. Most of the cases are caused by malignant tumors, usually lung cancer. Symptoms include edema of face, neck and upper limbs with often visible distended subcutaneous veins. Other frequent symptoms are shortness of breath, cough and opression of other organs in mediastinum.

Pathophysiology[edit | edit source]

definiton, pathogenesis, symptoms, complications, treatment

The syndrome is caused by reduced blood flow in superior vena cava. The usual cause is pressure on superior vena cava, but also other reasons could be thrombosis or tumor growth in wall of the vessel.

Common causes of restricted blood flow:

Severity depends on the degree of disability and speed of defect development. Collateral vessels can be made when defect is slowly developing, therefore symptoms are less severe. Symptoms are more severe in patients with asphyxia , as possible collateral flow is limited.

Clinical manifestation[edit | edit source]

Superior vena cava syndrome in a person with bronchogenic carcinoma. Note the swelling of his face first thing in the morning (right) and its resolution after being upright all day (left).

Edema of face, neck and upper limbs is characteristic sign. Usually accompanied by marked dilatation of the superficial veins. Aditionally edema around eyes, conjunctival congestion, chest pain, headache, epistaxis, tinnitus, syncope, cyanosis and vocal cord paresis can be signs of SVCS.

Diagnostics[edit | edit source]

Clinical signs are so characteristic, that they are sufficient to make a superior vena cava syndrome diagnosis. Subsequently, however, it is necessary to determine the underlying cause. Imaging methods that can capture the tumor mass are mainly used for this purpose. Venography can be used if thrombosis is suspected.

Treatment[edit | edit source]

The basis of therapy is to treat the primary cause. Symptomatic therapy includes corticosteroids and diuretics. It is hypothesized that this therapy may reduce edema around the tumor..

Links[edit | edit source]

Related articles[edit | edit source]

Bibliography[edit | edit source]

  • STAŇKOVÁ, Y., Vašutová I. and Skičková J .. Upper vena cava syndrome: definition, etiology, physiology, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment. Internal Medicine [online] . 2007, vol. 53, no. 11, pp. 1211-1214, also available from < >. ISSN 1801–7592.