Diagnosis and treatment of the inferior vena cava syndrome in advanced malignant disease

Am J Surg. 1986 Jul;152(1):70-4. doi: 10.1016/0002-9610(86)90145-5.


The syndrome of intrahepatic inferior vena cava obstruction has neither been commonly recognized nor adequately described. Symptoms include the abrupt onset of ascites, hepatomegaly, and fluid retention below the diaphragm with edema of the lower extremity. Proteinuria can be associated with these symptoms. When this syndrome has been caused by malignant hepatic enlargement, it has not been well characterized in the literature, and its treatment has been ignored. We have diagnosed the inferior vena cava syndrome due to metastatic liver involvement in 34 patients before death. Thirty-three of these patients were treated using a combination of strip radiotherapy to the hepatic vena cava, with or without hepatic arterial infusion of chemotherapy. Fifty-six percent of the patients completed a full course of radiotherapy, with an 83 percent response rate. A dose of 3,000 to 4,500 rads was found to be safe and provided excellent palliation of ascites and edema. Tumors known to be radiosensitive had the best responses and side effects were few and mild in nature. Recognition and treatment of this condition will assume greater importance as survival is prolonged in more patients with advanced malignancy.

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Colonic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Constriction, Pathologic / etiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Liver Neoplasms / complications*
  • Liver Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • Liver Neoplasms / secondary
  • Male
  • Radiography
  • Radiotherapy Dosage
  • Rectal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Vena Cava, Inferior / diagnostic imaging
  • Vena Cava, Inferior / pathology*