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J Vasc Surg. 2000 Feb;31(2):270-81.

Replacement of the inferior vena cava for malignancy: an update.

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Division of Vascular Surgery and Division of Gastroenterologic and General Surgery, and the Department of Surgery, Mayo Clinic and Mayo Foundation, Rochester, MN 55905, USA.



Resection and replacement of the inferior vena cava (IVC) to remove malignant disease is a formidable procedure. Since our initial report with IVC replacement for malignancy, we have maintained an aggressive approach to these patients. The purpose of this review is to update our experience with regard to patient selection, operative technique, and early and late outcome.


All patients who had IVC replacement for primary (n = 2) or secondary (n = 27) vena cava tumors from April 1990 to May 1999 were reviewed. Tumor location and type, clinical presentation, the segment of IVC replaced, graft patency, performance status of the patient, and tumor recurrence and survival data were collected. Late follow-up data were available for all but one patient. The IVC was replaced in 28 patients with large diameter (> or =14 mm) externally supported ePTFE grafts and with a panel graft of superficial femoral vein in the other. Three patients had a femoral arteriovenous fistula. Graft patency was determined before hospital dismissal and in follow-up by vena cavography, computed tomography, ultrasonography, or magnetic resonance imaging.


There were 18 women and 11 men, with a mean age of 53.1 years (range, 16-88 years). Over one half of patients had symptoms from their tumor. IVC replacement was at the suprarenal segment in 15 patients, of whom 13 had concomitant major hepatic resection, at the infrarenal segment in 10, at both caval segments in three, and at the renal vein confluence in one. There were two early deaths (6.9%). One patient died intraoperatively of coagulopathy during liver resection and suprarenal IVC replacement. The other death occurred 4 months postoperatively, from multisystem organ failure that resulted in graft infection and occlusion. Twelve patients had one or more major complications- cardiopulmonary problems in five; bleeding in five; chylous ascites or large pleural effusions in two patients each; and lower extremity edema with tibial vein thrombosis in one. The mean follow-up was 2.8 years (range, 2.7 months to 6.3 years). Two late graft occlusions occurred: one at 7.5 months, the other, from tumor recurrence, at 6.3 years. There have been no other late graft-related complications. All 11 late deaths were caused by the progression of malignant disease. Of 16 survivors, 12 have no evidence of disease and four have either regional or distant metastatic recurrence. Initial postoperative performance status was good or excellent for most survivors.


Aggressive surgical management may offer the only chance for cure or palliation of symptoms for patients with primary or secondary IVC tumors. Our experience suggests that vena cava replacement may be performed safely with low graft-related morbidity and good patency in carefully selected patients.

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