Thrombosis of the superior vena cava can lead to the superior vena cava syndrome (SVCS), which can be a medical emergency. Diagnosis may be delayed because it is uncommon.

Risk factors:

(1) cancer or other hypercoagulable state

(2) central intravascular catheter

(3) leads for a medical device (pacemaker, defibrillator, etc)


Features of the superior vena cava syndrome:

(1) congestion and swelling of the head, neck and upper extremities

(2) cervical venous distention

(3) cerebral, visual and/or respiratory symptoms


A frequent complication is a pulmonary embolism.

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