Superior vena cava syndrome in a child is a medical emergency because the child's windpipe can become blocked. The syndrome can be life-threatening. In children, windpipe is softer and can more easily be squeezed shut.
Also, the diameter of a child's windpipe is smaller, 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 most common symptoms of SVCS in children are 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.
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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