JOURNAL ARTICLE
REVIEW

Superior vena cava syndrome: role of the interventionalist

Vamsidhar Rachapalli, Louis-Martin Boucher
Canadian Association of Radiologists Journal 2014, 65 (2): 168-76
23415716
Superior vena cava syndrome results from the obstruction of blood flow through the superior vena cava and is most often due to thoracic malignancy. However, benign etiologies are on the rise secondary to more frequent use of intravascular devices such as central venous catheters and pacemakers. Although rarely a medical emergency, the symptoms can be alarming, particularly to the patient. Traditionally, superior vena cava syndrome has been managed with radiotherapy and chemotherapy. But interventional endovascular techniques have made inroads that offer a safe, rapid, and durable response. In many cases, it may be the only reasonable treatment. Because of this, an approach to endovascular treatment of this condition must be in the armamentarium of the interventional radiologist. This review will provide the reader with an insight into the etiology, pathophysiology, and various management principles of superior vena cava syndrome. The focus will be on understanding the techniques used during various endovascular interventions, including angioplasty, stenting, and pharmacomechanical thrombolysis. Discussion will also be centred on possible complications and current evidence as well as controversies regarding these approaches.

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