Obstruction of the superior vena cava is seen with increasing frequency. The syndrome resulting from complete obstruction is readily recognizable clinically. The syndrome resulting from partial obstruction may be suspected and possibly verified first by the intravenous use of contrast material outlining the venous circulation and second by infrared photography.
The last exhaustive review of the literature, by McIntire and Sykes,1 included the known cases through the year 1945 and noted 250 authentic cases between 1904 and 1946. These authors note that Fischer had collected 252 cases prior to 1904 and that the probable first authentic case report was by William Hunter in 1757—now two centuries ago. In the last decade, published reports would indicate that the syndrome of superior vena caval obstruction is seen in the order of magnitude of one case per year for each 200-300 hospital beds. The current incidence is many times greater than before