Surgical reconstruction of the superior vena cava system: Indications and results

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Background.Obstruction of the superior vena cava (SVC) secondary to malignant or benign diseases is rarely treated by surgical reconstruction. The purpose of this retrospective study is to report our experience and compare our results with previous data in the literature.Methods.From 1993 to 2006, 24 patients underwent operative reconstruction of the SVC. Mean patient age was 58 years. The underlying disease was primary bronchopulmonary malignant neoplasm in 50%, mediastinal malignant neoplasm in 21%, and symptomatic benign disease in 29%. Forty-six percent of patients presented clinical signs of superior vena cava compression (SVCC). Our indications were based on two criterions: clinical symptoms of superior vena caval compression or histological examination of the superior vena caval lesion that indicates potential for complete surgical excision.Results.Median duration of postoperative intensive care was two days. Mortality at 30 days was 12% for malignant diseases. All patients presenting clinical signs of SVCC improved. Mean follow-up was 28 months (range, 1–129). No thrombosis was observed during follow-up. Overall survival was 53% at 1 year and 35% at 5 years. For patients with malignant bronchopulmonary disease, survival was 50% at 1 year and 25% at 5 years. Mortality was 0% for patients with benign disease.Conclusion.Review of the literature indicates that replacement of the SVC is an uncommon procedure. Our experience suggests that the need for SVC reconstruction should not, however, be considered as a contraindication for resection of a bronchopulmonary or mediastinal neoplasm in an otherwise potentially curable patient, provided it can be achieved in a single block with clear margins. Replacement of the SVC can also be performed with low mortality and morbidity for effective treatment of SVCC secondary to benign disease that fails to respond to medical therapy.

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