What is the pathophysiology of superior vena cava (SVC) syndrome in deep venous thrombosis (DVT)?

Updated: Jun 05, 2019
  • Author: Kaushal (Kevin) Patel, MD; Chief Editor: Barry E Brenner, MD, PhD, FACEP  more...
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Superior vena cava syndrome is caused by gradual compression of the superior vena cava (SVC).  Patients can present with dyspnea, cough, dysphagia, and swelling of the neck and upper extremities. SVC syndrome is most commonly caused by extrinsic compression from a malignant process, such as lung or breast cancer. However, thrombotic causes of SVC syndrome are increasing due to the more widespread use of central venous catheters and pacemakers. SVC syndrome is a clinical diagnosis, but it can be confirmed with plain radiography, computed tomography (CT) scanning, and venography. [56]

For cancer-related SVC syndrome, the treatment consists of chemotherapy and radiation directed at the obstructing tumor. For thrombotic causes, thrombolysis and anticoagulation may be used. [57] Increasingly, endovascular treatment with balloon dilation and stenting are being used with rapid resolution of symptoms. [58, 59]

For more information, see Superior Vena Cava Syndrome.

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