A 41-year-old man was brought to the ED after a motor vehicle crash. On presentation, he demonstrated symptoms compatible with superior vena cava (SVC) syndrome, including extreme dyspnea, face and neck cyanosis and facial swelling. A chest tube was inserted and drained large amounts of sanguineous fluid. An exploratory thoracotomy revealed an extensive tumour encasing the SVC and the hilum. Biopsy confirmed the diagnosis of T-cell lymphoma.
The most common cause of SVC syndrome is malignant disease, with bronchogenic carcinoma and lymphoma being most frequent. Review of the literature uncovered only a few anecdotal reports of traumatic SVC syndrome. There are no previous reported cases of malignant SVC syndrome presenting in association with trauma.