SVC obstruction is a narrowing or blockage of the superior vena cava (SVC), which is the second largest vein in the human body. The superior vena cava moves blood from the upper half of the body to the heart.
Superior vena cava obstruction; Superior vena cava syndrome
SVC obstruction is a rare condition.
It is most often caused by cancer or a tumor in the mediastinum (the area of the chest under the breastbone and between the lungs).
Other types of cancer that can lead to this condition include:
SVC obstruction can also be caused by noncancerous conditions that cause scarring. These conditions include:
Other causes of SVC obstruction include:
Catheters placed in the large veins of the upper arm and neck may cause blood clots in the SVC.
Symptoms occur when something blocks the blood flowing back to the heart. Symptoms may begin suddenly or gradually, and may worsen when you bend over or lie down.
Early signs include:
The swelling will most likely be worse in the early morning hours and go away by mid-morning.
The most common symptoms are shortness of breath (dyspnea) and swelling of the face, neck, trunk, and arms.
Other possible symptoms include:
The goal of treatment is to relieve the blockage.
Diuretics (water pills) or steroids (anti-inflammatory drugs) may be used to temporarily relieve swelling.
Other treatment options may include radiation or chemotherapy to shrink the tumor, or surgery to remove the tumors. Surgery to bypass the obstruction is rarely performed. Placement of a stent (tube placed inside a blood vessel) to open up the SVC may be performed.
Yoel Siegel is a Radiologist in Miami, Florida. Dr. Siegel has been practicing medicine for over 26 years and is rated as an Elite doctor by MediFind in the treatment of SVC Obstruction. He is also highly rated in 7 other conditions, according to our data. His top areas of expertise are SVC Obstruction, Inflammatory Breast Cancer, Paget Disease of the Breast, and Breast Cancer. He is board certified in Diagnostic Radiology and licensed to treat patients in Florida. Dr. Siegel is currently accepting new patients.
Scott Resnick is an Interventional Radiologist and a Radiologist in Chicago, Illinois. Dr. Resnick has been practicing medicine for over 30 years and is rated as a Distinguished doctor by MediFind in the treatment of SVC Obstruction. He is also highly rated in 4 other conditions, according to our data. His top areas of expertise are SVC Obstruction, Aberrant Subclavian Artery, Blue Rubber Bleb Nevus Syndrome, and Varicose Veins. He is board certified in Interventional Radiology and Diagnostic Radiology and licensed to treat patients in Illinois. Dr. Resnick is currently accepting new patients.
Mujeeb Sheikh is a Cardiologist and a Hospital Medicine doctor in Toledo, Ohio. Dr. Sheikh has been practicing medicine for over 24 years and is rated as a Distinguished doctor by MediFind in the treatment of SVC Obstruction. He is also highly rated in 12 other conditions, according to our data. His top areas of expertise are SVC Obstruction, Angina, Heart Attack, and Atherosclerosis. He is board certified in Cardiovascular Disease (Cardiology) and Interventional Cardiology and licensed to treat patients in Ohio. Dr. Sheikh is currently accepting new patients.
The outcome varies, depending on the cause and the amount of blockage.
SVC obstruction caused by a tumor is a sign that the tumor has spread, and it indicates a poorer long-term outlook.
The throat could become blocked, which can block the airways.
Increased pressure may develop in the brain, leading to changed levels of consciousness, nausea, vomiting, or vision changes.
Contact your provider if you develop symptoms of SVC obstruction. Complications are serious and can sometimes be fatal.
Prompt treatment of other medical disorders may reduce the risk of developing SVC obstruction.
Gupta A, Kim DN, Kalva S, Reznik S, Johnson DH. Superior vena cava syndrome. In: Niederhuber JE, Armitage JO, Kastan MB, Doroshow JH, Tepper JE, eds. Abeloff's Clinical Oncology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 53.
Kinlay S, Bhatt DL. Treatment of noncoronary obstructive vascular disease. In: Zipes DP, Libby P, Bonow RO, Mann DL, Tomaselli GF, Braunwald E, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 66.