Superior vena cava syndrome

Curr Treat Options Oncol. 2001 Feb;2(1):77-91. doi: 10.1007/s11864-001-0019-3.


Lung cancer is the most common cause of superior vena cava syndrome (SVCS) and requires timely recognition and management. The syndrome is rarely an oncologic emergency in the absence of tracheal compression and airway compromise. Treatment depends on the etiology of the obstructive process. Treatment should also be individualized and should not be undertaken until a diagnosis is obtained. Most patients with SVCS secondary to lung cancer can be treated with appropriately directed chemotherapy or radiotherapy. With the refinement of endovascular stents, percutaneous stenting of the SVC is being increasingly used as primary treatment modality. Thrombotic occlusion can be treated with appropriate lytic agents. In rare circumstances, surgical decompression can be performed; bypass or replacement of the SVC results in immediate improvement in the majority of cases and can be accomplished with low morbidity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anticoagulants / therapeutic use
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Fibrinolytic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / complications*
  • Radiotherapy / methods
  • Superior Vena Cava Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Superior Vena Cava Syndrome / etiology*
  • Superior Vena Cava Syndrome / therapy*
  • Vascular Surgical Procedures / methods
  • Vena Cava, Superior
  • Venous Thrombosis / complications
  • Venous Thrombosis / therapy


  • Anticoagulants
  • Fibrinolytic Agents