The contraindication to curative excision of mediastinal and pulmonary cancers because of invasion of the superior vena cava is now challenged by the existence of vascular prostheses that are suitable for venous replacement. Between 1979 and 1990 22 patients underwent resection of lung cancer (n = 6) or malignant mediastinal tumors (n = 16) involving the superior vena cava. Resection was done with concomitant venous reconstruction, and polytetrafluorethylene grafts were used. All bronchogenic carcinomas necessitated right pneumonectomy, whereas the excision of mediastinal tumors had to include pulmonary resections in nine patients (five lobectomies and four sublobar resections) and the right phrenic nerve in 12 patients. Venous reconstruction was performed by interposition of a large polytetrafluoroethylene graft between the proximal and cardiac ends of the superior vena cava (n = 8), or between one (n = 10) or both brachiocephalic veins (n = 4) and the right atrium. One patient died postoperatively (4.5%), and another had mediastinitis that was successfully treated by omentopexy. Chemotherapy was administered preoperatively to five patients and postoperatively to seven patients; radiotherapy was administered to two and 10 patients, respectively. The overall actuarial survival rate is 48% at 5 years, with 11 patients presently alive. The survival rate of patients with mediastinal tumors is 60% at 5 years. Among the patients with lung cancer, two with N1 disease are alive at 16 and 51 months, and one died at 38 months; the two patients with N2 disease died at 6 and 8 months. Only one graft occlusion occurred in the postoperative period; another occurred 14 months after operation and was precipitated by insertion of a central venous catheter. The patency of all remaining grafts was demonstrated after an average time of 23 (1 to 98) months. On the basis of these results, polytetrafluoroethylene graft replacement of the superior vena cava should be part of the planning and execution of radical excision with curative intent of mediastinal and right pulmonary malignant tumors that are not present with other contraindications, such as pleural or distant metastasis and severe systemic disease.