Superior Vena Cava Syndrome

Written by Dr. Mary

What Is Superior Vena Cava (SVC) Syndrome?

Superior Vena Cava Syndrome is a condition which involves obstruction. There is direct obstruction of the superior vena cava by a form of malignancy. This can be a form of tumor that has compressed the vessel wall as that is why the condition is also noted as the superior vena cava obstruction. This compression can be life threatening and can place significant problems to the affected.


Superior vena cava syndrome is noted to affect a number of people and that about 90% of those noted with such condition are caused by some form of malignancy. Those who have bronchogenic carcinoma or cancer of the lungs have accounted to be one of the top causing conditions of superior vena cava syndrome. This is indeed very life threatening for it has gained high mortality rate due to this condition. The condition has been noted to affect more those in their 50s. But this does not leave out the young as unaffected, for this condition has various causative factors that the young are also at risk for.

Superior Vena Cava Syndrome images

Superior Vena Cava Syndrome Symptoms

Those affected of superior vena cava syndrome are observed with the following manifestations:

  1. Difficulty in breathing
  2. Headache
  3. Facial swelling, the arms and chest wall may also be affected
  4. Hemoptysis or coughing out blood
  5. Chest tightness
  6. Hoarseness of voice
  7. Lightheadedness
  8. Difficulty in swallowing food or drink
  9. Positive jugular vein distention

Superior Vena Cava Syndrome Causes

This condition is mostly caused by the development of cancer. If one has a history of primary or metastatic cancer of the right lung, this can result to obstruction of compression of the superior vena cava. Tumor-forming conditions that are basically affecting the mediastinum will greatly cause this condition.

There are also instances where a person shall suffer from internal bleeding as this compression is not properly controlled. Thrombus formation near the affected can worsen or complicate the state of the condition. Metastatic states of breast cancer toward the lymph nodes located in the mediastinum are highly causative of superior vena cava syndrome.

Superior Vena Cava Syndrome Test

The diagnosis of the condition shall first be data collection. Getting the client’s medical history can lead us to the appropriate diagnostic examinations. Procedure such as CT scan, MRI or chest x-ray shall help in the diagnosis.

Prognosis

The prognosis of the condition would entirely depend on the severity of the condition. When one has been diagnosed late of the condition, then it shall entail a higher mortality rate to the client. The prognosis is basically identified as poor for those affected have high mortality rate when finally diagnosed of the syndrome. The underlying cause of the condition shall also be a dependent factor for identifying the prognosis of the syndrome.

Superior Vena Cava Syndrome Treatment

Once a person has been diagnosed with superior vena cava syndrome, it is essential that one is to be admitted in the hospital for proper and continuous care. It is also required that intensive care is provided for the patient. The patient may need breathing assistance. Circulation supplement is also needed by the patient.

Since the condition is a medical emergency, it is important that providing the client a stabilized airway when rushed to the hospital. It is likely that one will be suffering from breathing problems. Assistive breathing device should be hooked onto the patient. Providing circulatory resuscitation should also be done. When cancer or tumor is the root cause of the condition, it should be treated accordingly by an oncologist in order to attain a better prognosis from the syndrome.

The client may also need to be medically provided with comfort. Certain medications will assist in the betterment of the state of the client. These types of drugs are provided for the clients:

  1. Glucocorticoids. This can help in decreasing the amount of inflammation that is taking place in the area of affectation. Methylprednisolone and prednisone are some of the generic drugs provided to the sufferers.
  2. Diuretics. This is indicated to patients in order to decrease the hearts workload and not to tire it. This can also reduce the pressure that the heart is experiencing when compression of the superior vena cava is happening.

Superior Vena Cava Syndrome Prevention

This condition is hard to prevent but one can avoid the hazards of acquiring cancer. This can be done by having a healthy lifestyle and adhering to yearly check-ups. Prevention for the obstruction to occur, one should have a stent replacement procedure. Surgical removal of the blockage is considered prevention in placing it in a worst condition or state.

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