Superior Vena Cava Syndrome: Symptoms & Signs

Medically Reviewed on 12/3/2021

Superior vena cava syndrome is the compression of the superior vena cava, a large vein located in the upper chest, which collects blood from the head and arms and delivers it back to the heart. If this vein is compressed, or if a thrombus or clot develops within it, return blood flow to the heart is impeded. When blood flow to the heart is restricted, the increased pressure in the veins of the face and arms causes edema, or fluid buildup, in these areas.

Signs and symptoms of superior vena cava syndrome include

Other associated symptoms can include

  • upper extremity swelling,
  • distended chest veins, and
  • hoarseness.

Cause of Superior Vena Cava Syndrome

The cause of superior vena cava syndrome is usually a tumor.

Other superior vena cava syndrome symptoms and signs

  • Cough
  • Distended Chest Veins
  • Distended Neck Veins
  • Face and Neck Swelling
  • Hoarseness
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Upper Extremity Swelling


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Jameson, J. Larry, et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 20th Ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Education, 2018.