About 15,000 people in the United States have superior vena cava syndrome (SVCS), a blockage of the large vein that carries blood from the head and upper body to the heart. Signs of the syndrome, which is usually caused by a malignancy pressing on the vein, include facial swelling, headache and visual disturbances.
“The superior vena cava syndrome is often clinically striking but rarely requires emergency intervention,” said Lynn D. Wilson, M.D., M.P.H. ’86, professor and vice chair of therapeutic radiology and professor of dermatology, lead author of a paper published in The New England Journal of Medicine in May. In the paper, Wilson and colleagues argue for dealing with the underlying cause—the tumor.
Wilson said, “Deterring from a multidisciplinary management plan and focusing only on the effects of the syndrome should be discouraged.”