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Superior Vena Cava Syndrome

Medically reviewed by Last updated on May 6, 2024.

What is superior vena cava syndrome?

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 blood vessels in and around your heart. Without treatment, SVCS may become life-threatening.

What increases my risk for SVCS?

What are the signs and symptoms of SVCS?

How is SVCS diagnosed?

A CT or MRI scan may be used to take pictures of the organs in your chest. You may be given dye to help the organs show up better in the pictures. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if you have any metal in or on your body.

How is SVCS treated?

Treatment is based on the severity of your symptoms and the underlying cause of your SVCS. You may need any of the following:

What are the risks of SVCS?

Even with treatment, your symptoms may return. If your SVCS is severe, swelling of your brain or throat may cause death. The blocked superior vena cava causes blood to remain in your blood vessels. This increases your risk for blood clots. Left untreated, SVCS can be life-threatening.

How do I manage my symptoms?

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. 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.

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