Superior vena cava obstruction: bypass using spiral vein graft

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Previous midterm experience with the composite spiral saphenous vein graft to bypass the obstructed superior vena cava (SVC) has been favorable. This study looks at the long-term results in patients followed for up to 23 years.


Sixteen patients aged 17 to 68 years had operation for obstruction of the SVC with SVC syndrome caused by benign disease. Eleven patients had fibrosing mediastinitis with or without caseous necrosis, 4 had thrombosis caused by a catheter or a pacemaker electrode, and 1 had spontaneous thrombosis. All operations were performed using a composite spiral vein graft constructed from the patient’s own saphenous vein. Graft diameter ranged from 9.5 to 15.0 mm. Ten grafts were from the left innominate vein, and six grafts were from the right or left internal jugular vein. The grafts were placed to the right atrial appendage in all patients except 1. Follow-up extends from 1 month to 23 years 8 months (mean follow-up, 10.9 years).


Fourteen of 16 grafts remain patent for up to 23 years, and all patients but 1 are free from SVC syndrome. One patient required revision of the graft for thrombosis 4 days after operation. Two grafts closed during the first year after operation: one because of recurrence of spontaneous venous thrombosis and the other because of aggressive fibrosing mediastinitis requiring operation for graft revision three times over a 12-year period prior to death.


These data demonstrate that a spiral vein bypass graft for treatment of the obstructed SVC relieves SVC syndrome and has excellent long-term patency.

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