A female in her 50s with a past medical history of coronary artery disease, pacemaker placement, hypertension, and ESRD presented to the emergency department with the chief complaint of missed dialysis, breast engorgement, and an increase in vascularity in her chest and abdomen. The patient reported an increase in breast swelling and increased vascularity in her belly over the past three months. Additionally, she woke up short of breath on the morning of presentation and reported dyspnea at rest. She denied chest pain, diaphoresis, breast pain, fever, rash, trauma to the breasts, or drainage.
Superior vena cava (SVC) syndrome results from any condition that leads to obstruction of blood flow through the SVC. Our case was caused by complete occlusion from a thrombus and the patient presented with bilateral breast swelling, skin changes (peau d’orange), and an increase in vascularity in the abdomen and chest (caput medusa). Breast tissue largely drains into the axillary veins, and more proximally into the subclavian veins. Due to occlusion of the SVC, a complete backup of venous flow occurs, resulting in all of the noted collateral hypervascularity. Often SVC occlusion is caused by malignancy obstructing the superior vena cava or invading the vein.
The CTA demonstrates occlusion of the superior vena cava. There are multiple varices in the chest wall and the imaged upper abdominal wall. There is also diffuse subcutaneous edema with diffuse soft tissue swelling and skin thickening of the bilateral breasts.
Corduff N, Rozen WM, Taylor GI. The superficial venous drainage of the breast: a clinical study and implications for breast reduction surgery. J Plast Reconstr Aesthet Surg. 2010 May;63(5):809-13. doi: 10.1016/j.bjps.2009.02.055. Epub 2009 Apr 3. PMID: 19345164.
Friedman T, Quencer KB, Kishore SA, Winokur RS, Madoff DC. Malignant Venous Obstruction: Superior Vena Cava Syndrome and Beyond. Semin Intervent Radiol. 2017 Dec;34(4):398-408. doi: 10.1055/s-0037-1608863. Epub 2017 Dec 14. PMID: 29249864; PMCID: PMC5730434.
A 62-year-old male presented thirty minutes after being bitten by a snake in his garden. He stated that he thinks his finger was bitten twice. The patient presented with pain and swelling of his right hand and forearm.