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Superior vena cava syndrome

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    By Damien Jordan, Medical Author 

    A nice review of the superior vena cava (SVC) syndrome was published recently 
    In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan. 2020 Jul 13 (see link below for this reference).

    What is superior vena cava syndrome ? 

    The superior vena cava is formed by the confluence of the innominate veins which drains the upper extremitites, head and neck.  The superior vena cava s also known as the cranial vena cava as opposed to the inferior vena cava. 

    Who is the superior vena cava syndrome ?

    Superior vena cava syndrome results from partial obstruction (stenosis) or occlusion of the superior vena cava.

    What are the typical presenting symptoms and signs in a patient with superior vena cava syndrome ?

    Swelling of teh face and neck, distended neck veins, cough, orthopnea (shortness of breath while laying flat), distended collateral veins on the chest wall.  Other less common symptoms may be respirtory compromise due to edema of the larynx, enlargement of the head, syncpe, headache, swelling of the uper extremities. cyanosis, nausea, dysphagia (difficulty swallowing), among others. 


    What conditions cause the superior vena cava syndrome ? 

    Cancer (e.g. Hodgkins lymphoma)

    Mediastinal fibrosis

    Thrombosis of the vena cava from inwelling catheters or pacemaker leads

    Mediastinal masses (benign and malignant)