SVC Syndrome with Complete Thrombotic Occlusion

This morning we presented a case of SVC syndrome with complete thrombotic occlusion.

SVC 101

  • What is it?
    • Obstruction of blood flow through the SVC
  • What are the three mechanisms by which this can happen?
    • Thrombosis
    • Invasion
    • Extrinsic Pressure
  • How does the body compensate?
    • Collateral veins develop to return blood to the heart

Causes of SVC Syndrome


SVC Symptoms

  • Facial and neck swelling
  • Chest pain
  • Respiratory symptoms
  • Neurological manifestations such as head fullness, which may worsen by bending forward or lying own
  • Headaches, confusion, audiovisual disturbances
  • Cerebral edema can be fatal
  • Arm swelling
  • Onset of symptoms depends on whether collaterals had a chance to form

Physical Examination

  • May see distended chest wall veins
  • Pemberton’s sign may be positive
    • initially discovered in the context of a goiter, it can also be useful to identify other causes of SVC obstruction
    • have the patient raise their arms for two minutes and watch for increasing facial plethora (swelling and redness)

Treatment Options

  • Depends on urgency. If emergent, ABCs then straight to endovascular management with pharmacologic thrombolysis/balloon angioplasty/etc +/- stenting
  • If non-emergent, can obtain imaging and biopsy and plan treatment course with chemotherapy or radiation

Lastly, check out Radiopedia! It’s a great learning tool and really fun too.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s