Superior Vena Cava Syndrome (SVC) is usually just a condition that is secondary and may have other serious medical conditions that may be causing it such as a blood clot that can block the flow of blood through a specific vein and cancerous tumors. Doctors used to treat superior vena cava syndrome as a medical emergency but in light of the recent advances in medical technology, the said medical condition is no longer considered as such. Despite the said health condition no longer requiring the label of being a medical emergency, people with Superior Vena Cava Syndrome should still seek immediate medical attention from their healthcare partner or doctor.
But what is the Superior Vena Cava? Technically speaking, the superior vena cava is a bigger vein that moves blood that is deoxygenated back to an individual’s heart. The superior vena cava is also responsible for carrying utilized blood to the heart’s upper chamber or the right atrium from the upper body and the head. The said vein is normally found right in the midsection of an individual’s chest cavity and is usually flanked on all sides by a number of nodes from the lymphatic system. Symptoms that may present themselves due to any blockages or restriction of the blood flow through the superior vena cava is called or has been dubbed as Superior vena cava syndrome. There are a variety of symptoms associated with Superior Vena Cava syndrome. Some of these symptoms include swelling of the upper body, lightheadedness, problems breathing.
What Are The Causes of SVC Syndrome?
As stated earlier superior vena cava syndrome is just a secondary condition that is usually caused by some other underlying medical condition. These other medical conditions may range from the swelling of lymph nodes surrounding the Superior vena cava to the development of tumors that can cause blockages in blood flow. Some of the more common specific causes of the aforementioned medical condition include cancer of the lungs and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. There are other less common but more specific causal factors for superior vena cava syndrome as well and these are immune system disorders such as Behcet’s Disease, infections of the chest cavity, tuberculosis, blood clots caused by pacemakers or catheters, Hodgkin lymphoma, cancer of the thyroid, cancer of the esophagus, cancer of the colon, and metastatic breast cancer.
What Are The Symptoms of SVC Syndrome?
The symptoms of Superior Vena Cava Syndrome will usually manifest once there is an actual obstruction in the superior vena cava that can cause complete blockage of the vein. However, if there is no complete obstruction or blockage in the said vein, patients may not feel the symptoms of the medical condition. In addition, blockage or obstruction that can only be considered as partial or incomplete may only manifest with symptoms that are mild. This may often lead to patients ignoring or shrugging off the above-mentioned mild symptoms. Naturally, those patients with significant or extreme blockages in the superior vena cava will experience severe symptoms.
Some of the symptoms for SVC Syndrome include redness in the skin around the chest or neck area of the patient, lightheadedness, nausea, wheezing, stridor, swelling of the face, swelling of the arms, chest and neck veins that are swollen, coughing out blood, pain in the chest, hoarseness, and difficulty swallowing or breathing, and coughing.
Children who manifest these symptoms and who may have Superior Vena Cava Syndrome should immediately be taken to the doctor or a healthcare professional as children or kids diagnosed with superior vena cava syndrome should always be tagged as a health emergency. This is because the windpipe of kids is relatively smaller compared to adults which may result in rapid swelling and problems when it comes to normal breathing. All other symptoms will usually be the same for both adults and kids.
Pregnant women also experience some of the symptoms of Superior Vena Cava syndrome but they may actually have a different medical condition altogether. Pregnant women will usually have the inferior or the smaller vena cava vein squeezed by the buildup of pressure caused by the growing fetus inside the pregnant mother’s womb. Typically, a pregnant woman may feel lightheaded and dizzy during the said incident involving the inferior vena cava. The immediate treatment for this would be much simpler as it will only require the patient to lie on their left side so that symptoms can get resolved.
How To Diagnose SVC Syndrome
To properly diagnose SVC syndrome, the patient’s doctor will usually order a number of tests conducted on the patient to confirm that what they do indeed have is Superior vena cava syndrome. Doctors may recommend a chest x-ray to verify if there are any tumors or abnormalities in the chest or lungs. They may also request for the conduct of a CT scan to check for any possible blockages and obstructions. Doctors may also order the conduct of venography to make veins more visible for the doctor’s assessment. Lastly, doctors may order that ultrasound is conducted to check for any possible blood clots in the upper body of the patient.