BACKGROUND--Obstruction of the superior vena cava (SVC) in malignant disease can cause considerable distress to patients. Symptomatic relief can be achieved by the percutaneous implantation of a self-expanding stent (Wallstent) into the stenosis. METHODS--Fourteen patients with obstruction of the SVC were treated with one to three Wallstent endoprostheses. They suffered from advanced bronchogenic carcinoma (n = 12), thyroid carcinoma (n = 1), and breast carcinoma (n = 1). The indication for stent placement was symptomatic obstruction of the SVC and incurable disease. Stenting was performed for symptom relief, and before, during, and after courses of radiotherapy or chemotherapy as needed. RESULTS--Twelve patients experienced complete symptomatic relief within two days of stent placement. Two patients did not benefit. Three patients not given anticoagulation developed stent thrombosis between one week and eight months after initial placement, and within one day of endobronchial stent implantation with bronchial laser therapy or balloon dilatation in all three. Patency of the SVC was achieved again by a repeat procedure. CONCLUSIONS--Stent placement for obstruction of the SVC gives rapid symptomatic relief. Subsequent endobronchial stent implantation with bronchial laser therapy or balloon dilatation could be a risk for caval stent occlusion. Stent thrombosis remains a problem in patients who are not anticoagulated.
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