SVC Syndrome


Superior Vena Cava Syndrome (SVC) is characterized by obstruction of the blood flow in the superior vena cava. Signs and symptoms include swelling and cyanosis of the face, neck, and upper arms, cough, orthopnea, and headache.

It is a major vein in the upper body that carries blood from the head, neck, upper chest, and arms to the heart. It (SVCS) happens when the superior vena cava is partially blocked or compressed. Cancer is the main cause of SVCS. 

It is very important for you to learn how bad (severe) your symptoms are.

How bad is my Superior Vena Cava Syndrome?

Mild: It is generally asymptomatic, but there may be an incidental finding of SVC thrombosis (blood clots blocking veins or arteries). If the obstruction or compression is mild and does not cause significant symptoms, your healthcare provider may choose to monitor your condition closely. You can use the supportive care techniques mentioned below.

Moderate: The symptoms include face/ neck swelling, cough, shortness of breath (dyspnea) and bloated chest vein. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy may be used to shrink the tumor causing the obstruction or compression. Additionally, elevating the head of the bed can help reduce swelling and improve blood flow. Steroids may also be prescribed by your doctor to help reduce inflammation and relieve symptoms.

Severe: See your doctor urgently if you have cerebral edema, changes in vision, and upper respiratory edema of the larynx/pharynx. It may be a life-threatening condition. In severe cases, a stent may be placed in the superior vena cava to help keep it open and improve blood flow.

What tests are needed to diagnose SVCS?

  1. Imaging tests such as X-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, and ultrasound may be used to visualize the SVC and look for signs of obstruction or compression.
  2. Venography: A venogram is a type of X-ray that uses contrast dye to visualize the SVC and surrounding blood vessels. This test can help identify the location and severity of the obstruction or compression.
  3. Biopsy: If a tumor or other mass is suspected as the cause of SVC syndrome, a biopsy may be performed to obtain a sample of the tissue for further analysis.

Supportive care for Superior Vena Cava (SVC) Syndrome

  • Raise the head when lie down
  • Corticosteroids which lower swelling and inflammation.
  • Diuretics, which help to get rid of extra body fluid
  • Treatment to break up a blood clot

Warning signs/severe symptoms of SVC that need immediate medical attention

  • Swelling of your face, neck, upper body, and arms
  • Trouble breathing or shortness of breath
  • Coughing
  • Serious breathing Problem

What caused my SVC?

SVCS is common if you have lung cancernon-Hodgkin lymphoma, or cancer that spreads to the chest. Cancer can cause SVCS in several ways:

  • A tumor in the chest can press on the superior vena cava.
  • A tumor can grow into the superior vena cava and block it.
  • Cancer can spread to the lymph nodes around the superior vena cava. The lymph nodes can get larger and press on or block the vein.
  • Cancer can cause a blood clot in the vein. A pacemaker wire or a catheter in the vein could cause a clot.

How can Ankr help with your SVC syndrome?

Don’t try to treat a SVCS by yourself. Use Ankr to:
(1) learn about the common symptoms of SVCS
(2) send message to your Doctor if they use Ankr platform*
(3) be better informed about how to prevent another SVCS

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