Percutaneous stenting of superior vena cava syndrome: a case report and review of the literature

J Hochrein, T M Bashore, M P O'Laughlin, J K Harrison
American Journal of Medicine 1998, 104 (1): 78-84
Superior vena cava syndrome (SVCS) is a distressing manifestation of benign or malignant disease obstructing return of blood flow through the superior vena cava (SVC). Treatment, often centering around management of the underlying illness, may be slow in relieving symptoms, relying on the recruitment of collateral veins to reestablish blood flow. Percutaneous delivery of metallic stents into the vena cava has been used with success to relieve obstruction to blood flow quickly and completely. We present the case of a patient with complete occlusion of the SVC who underwent successful vena caval revascularization with placement of balloon expandable metallic stents. We also review published reports on the use of stents for SVCS. Results from several series demonstrate that stents can be used with excellent results. Response rates in these series reviewed range from 68% to 100%. Recurrence of symptoms occurred in 4% to 45% of patients but could often be treated with anticoagulation, angioplasty of the stented area, or repeat stenting. Stenting has been used successfully in patients with malignant diseases and in the less common cases of SVCS from a benign etiology. Complications are uncommon and usually of minor consequence. Anticoagulation, thrombolytics, and thrombectomy or atherectomy catheters have also been used during or following stent implantation although their use remains primarily empiric. Percutaneous treatment of SVC obstruction offers patients hope for prompt and dramatic relief from the symptoms of SVCS.

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