Superior vena cava syndrome in children is a medical emergency because the child's windpipe can become blocked. The syndrome can be life-threatening. Because the windpipe of children is maller, so any amount of swelling can cause breathing problems. Squeezing of the trachea is called superior mediastinal syndrome (SMS). These two disorders often occur together in children, but aren’t the same.
The medical condition is characterized by coughing, hoarseness, problems breathing and chest pain. The less common symptoms of superior vena cava syndrome include fainting, anxiety, confusion, tiredness, headache, vision problems and a sense of fullness in the ears.
Superior vena cava syndrome in children may be diagnosed and treated before a definite diagnosis of cancer is made. A physical exam, chest x-ray, and medical history are usually all that are needed to diagnose superior vena cava syndrome in children.
If cancer is suspected, a biopsy is not done unless the lungs and heart of the child with SVCS are able to handle the anesthesia needed. Other diagnostic tests may be done to determine if anesthesia can be safely used. In most cases, treatment will begin before a definite diagnosis of cancer is made.
It is very important that treatment of the syndrome begins right away. The treatment option of for SVCS in children is radiation therapy, which is often combined with drugs to reduce swelling.
Anti-cancer drugs, steroids, and/or other drugs may be used. If the tumour does not respond, it may be benign (not cancer). In that case, doctors consider surgery. This may include surgery to bypass (go around) the blocked part of the vein or to place a stent to open the vein.
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