Encyclopedia Home / S / SVC obstruction

SVC obstruction

  • Alternative Names

    Superior vena cava obstruction; Superior vena cava syndrome


    Symptoms occur when something blocks the blood flowing back to the heart. They may begin suddenly or gradually, and may worsen when you bend over or lie down.

    Early signs include:

    • Swelling around the eye
    • Swelling of the face
    • Swelling of the whites of the eyes

    The swelling will most likely be worse in the early morning hours and go away by mid morning.

    The most common symptoms are shortness of breath (dyspnea) and swelling of the face, neck, trunk, and arms.

    Other possible symptoms inclue:

    • Decreased alertness
    • Dizziness
    • Fainting
    • Headache
    • Reddish face or cheeks
    • Reddish palms
    • Reddish mucus membranes (inside the nose, mouth, and other places)
    • Redness changing to blueness later
    • Sensation of head or ear "fullness"
    • Vision changes

    Signs and tests

    An examination may show enlarged veins of the face, neck, and upper chest. Blood pressure is often high in the arms and low in the legs.

    A bronchoscopy (a lighted tube placed through the mouth into the windpipe and lungs) may be performed if lung cancer is suspected.

    Blockage of the SVC may be visible on:

    • Chest x-ray
    • CT scan of the chest or MRI of chest
    • Coronary angiography (a heart blood vessel study)
    • Doppler ultrasound (sound wave test of the blood vessels)
    • Radionuclide ventriculography (nuclear study of heart motion)

    This disease may also affect the results of the following tests:

    • Abdominal MRI
    • Liver scan