Medline: 7494237

Kaohsiung Journal of Medical Sciences 11(10): 568-573, 1995.

Superior vena cava syndrome in lung cancer: an analysis of 54 cases.

Hsu JW, Chiang CD, Hsu WH, et al.


Traditionally, superior vena cava syndrome (SVCS) has been recognized as an oncologic emergency, and with clinical suspicion of the syndrome, tissue diagnosis was often delayed due to possible complications in diagnostic procedures and immediately threatening of life. Previously, local radiotherapy was regarded as the best immediate strategy for management of the condition. We have analyzed 54 lung cancer patients with SVCS in the past 6 years. Our results show that dyspnea (34 cases, 63%) and facial swelling (29 cases, 54%) are the two most common symptoms. The most frequent physical finding was venous distension of the neck (35 cases, 65%). The chest X-ray findings also showed a large ratio of superior mediastinal widening (26 cases, 48%). Fine needle aspiration of palpable lymph node (20 cases, 37%) and trans-thoracic needle aspiration guided by ultrasound (US) (8 cases, 14%) made diagnosis of at least half of the cases possible (28 cases, 51%). Both of these procedures are safer and easier than other invasive methods of examination. Of the 54 patients, small cell carcinoma constituted the majority of the cases (23 cases, 43%) and, with combination chemotherapy, there was a good response rate and a longer survival time (7.4 months) as compared to that of non-small cell carcinoma (3.7 months) treated by radiotherapy. We conclude that lung cancer with SVCS could be quickly and safely diagnosed by needle aspiration of the palpable lymph node or trans-thoracic needle aspiration guided by US, and that with combination chemotherapy the SVCS in small cell carcinoma can be effectively relieved.

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