The purpose of this study was to evaluate the role of endovascular and open surgical reconstructions in patients with superior vena cava (SVC) syndrome caused by nonmalignant disease.
Clinical data from 32 consecutive patients who underwent endovascular or open surgical reconstruction of central veins because of symptomatic benign SVC syndrome between November 1983 and June 2001 were retrospectively reviewed.
The study included 17 male and 15 female patients (mean age, 38 years; range, 5-69 years). Presenting symptoms were head fullness (n = 26), dyspnea or orthopnea (n = 23), headache (n = 17), or dizziness (n = 11); physical signs were head swelling (n = 31), chest wall collateral vessels (n = 29), facial cyanosis (n = 18), or arm swelling (n = 17). Etiologic factors included mediastinal fibrosis (n = 19), indwelling catheter (n = 8), idiopathic thrombosis (n = 4), or post-surgery (n = 1). Two patients were heterozygous for factor V Leiden; 1 patient had antithrombin III deficiency. Twenty-nine patients underwent surgical reconstruction with 31 bypass grafts: spiral saphenous vein (n = 20), superficial femoral vein (n = 4), human allograft (n = 1), or expanded polytetrafluoroethylene (ePTFE, n = 6). Eleven patients underwent percutaneous transluminal angioplasty or stenting; 3 primary and 8 secondary endovascular procedures were performed to treat graft stenosis (n = 7) or occlusion (n = 1). There were no early deaths. Five early graft failures in 3 ePTFE grafts and 2 bifurcated vein grafts (thrombosis, n = 4; stenosis, n = 1) were successfully treated with open surgical revision. Over a mean follow-up of 5.6 years (range, 0.4-16.6 years) in surgical patients, 17 additional secondary interventions were performed in 8 patients, 14 endovascular and 3 surgical. Primary, assisted primary, and secondary patency rates of surgical bypass grafts were 63%, 79%, and 85%, respectively, at 1 year, and 53%, 68%, and 80%, respectively, at 5 years. Graft patency was significantly higher in vein grafts compared with ePTFE grafts (P =.02). Mean follow-up after percutaneous transluminal angioplasty or stenting was 3.1 years (range, 1 day-11.7 years). Twelve secondary endovascular interventions were performed in 6 patients (primary group, 3 of 3; secondary group, 3 of 9 grafts in 8 patients) to maintain patency in 11 of 12 reconstructions. Mean follow-up in the entire patient cohort was 5.3 years (range, 0.4-16.6 years). In 79% of patients symptoms had resolved or were significantly improved at last follow-up.
Surgical treatment of benign SVC syndrome is effective over the long term, with secondary endovascular interventions to maintain graft patency. Straight spiral saphenous vein graft remains the conduit of choice for surgical reconstruction, with results superior to those with bifurcated vein and ePTFE. Endovascular treatment is effective over the short term, with frequent need for repeat interventions. It does not adversely affect future open surgical reconstruction and may prove to be a reasonable primary intervention in selected patients. Patients who are not suitable for or who fail endovascular intervention merit open surgical reconstruction.