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Clinical Investigations: CARDIOLOGY |

Left Superior Vena Cava Persistence in Patients Undergoing Pacemaker or Cardioverter-Defibrillator Implantation*: A 10-Year Experience

Mauro Biffi, MD; Giuseppe Boriani, MD; Lorenzo Frabetti, MD; Gabriele Bronzetti, MD; Angelo Branzi, MD
Author and Funding Information

*From the Institute of Cardiology, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy.

Correspondence to: Mauro Biffi, MD, Institute of Cardiology, University of Bologna, Via Massarenti 9, 40138 Bologna, Italy



Chest. 2001;120(1):139-144. doi:10.1378/chest.120.1.139
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Objective: The persistence of a left superior vena cava (LSVC) has been observed in 0.3% of the general population as established by autopsy. In the adult population, it is an important anatomic finding if a left superior approach to the heart is considered. The aim of the study was to evaluate the prevalence of a LSVC in patients undergoing pacemaker (PM) and cardioverter-defibrillator (CD) implantation.

Design: We observed the prevalence of LSVC during a 10-year period; each patient undergoing PM or transvenous CD implantation received a left cephalic/left subclavian venous approach to the heart. With this technique, LSVC persistence is easily diagnosed during lead placement.

Results: A total of 1,139 patients consecutively underwent PM implantation during 10 years: 4 patients had persistent LSCV (0.34%). Among 115 patients undergoing CD implantation, 2 patients with LSVC (1.7%) were observed. Overall LSVC persistence was found in 6 of 1,254 patients (0.47%). Two patients, one of whom had no right superior vena cava (RSVC), received a left-sided PM, whereas two other patients received right-sided devices. Both CD patients received a left-sided active-can device: the first patient with a right-sided lead tunneled to the left pectoral pocket, as a result of poor catheter handling through the LSVC and coronary sinus, and the second patient with a screw-in lead from LSVC. Long-term follow-up of these patients (average ± SD, 41 ± 26 months) revealed absence of lead dislodgment and appropriate device function regardless of lead implantation site.

Conclusions: Persistence of LSVC in adults undergoing PM/CD implantation is similar to that of the general population (0.47% in our study). The left-sided implant can be achieved by stylet shaping and by use of active fixation leads in most patients, with a reliable outcome at short term in addition to appropriate device performance at follow-up. Assessment of the RSVC is advisable when planning a right-sided implantation, since a minority of patients lacks this vessel.

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