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Superior Vena Cava Syndrome
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
Superior vena cava syndrome (SVCS) develops when your superior vena cava is partially or fully blocked. Your superior vena cava is a large blood vessel. Blood from your upper body normally flows through the superior vena cava and into the right side of your heart. Your heart then pumps the blood to your lungs. A partially or fully blocked superior vena cava causes blood to remain in the blood vessels in and around your heart. Without treatment, SVCS may become life-threatening.
You may need any of the following:
- Steroids decrease inflammation.
- Diuretics decrease swelling.
- Blood thinners help prevent blood clots. Examples of blood thinners include heparin and warfarin. Clots can cause strokes, heart attacks, and death. The following are general safety guidelines to follow while you are taking a blood thinner:
- Watch for bleeding and bruising while you take blood thinners. Watch for bleeding from your gums or nose. Watch for blood in your urine and bowel movements. Use a soft washcloth on your skin, and a soft toothbrush to brush your teeth. This can keep your skin and gums from bleeding. If you shave, use an electric shaver. Do not play contact sports.
- Tell your dentist and other healthcare providers that you take anticoagulants. Wear a bracelet or necklace that says you take this medicine.
- Do not start or stop any medicines unless your healthcare provider tells you to. Many medicines cannot be used with blood thinners.
- Tell your healthcare provider right away if you forget to take the medicine, or if you take too much.
- Warfarin is a blood thinner that you may need to take. The following are things you should be aware of if you take warfarin.
- Foods and medicines can affect the amount of warfarin in your blood. Do not make major changes to your diet while you take warfarin. Warfarin works best when you eat about the same amount of vitamin K every day. Vitamin K is found in green leafy vegetables and certain other foods. Ask for more information about what to eat when you are taking warfarin.
- You will need to see your healthcare provider for follow-up visits when you are on warfarin. You will need regular blood tests. These tests are used to decide how much medicine you need.
- Fibrinolytics break up blood clots.
- Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.
Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:
You will need to return for tests and monitoring. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.
Manage your symptoms:
- Limit liquids and sodium (salt). Too much liquid or salt may cause more swelling and increase your blood pressure. Ask your healthcare provider how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you. Ask how much salt is safe for you to have each day.
- Elevate your upper body. Sleep upright to decrease pressure caused by swelling.
Contact your healthcare provider if:
- Your symptoms return.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
Seek care immediately or call 911 if:
- You have new or worsening shortness of breath.
- You hear a rasping sound when you breathe.
- You have increased dizziness or confusion.
- You have a seizure.
- You lose consciousness.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.