The most common primary cardiac tumor is the atrial myxoma, which accounts for 40-50% of all these neoplasms.
The remainder of the pathological spectrum includes benign and malignant cell types. Although the overall incidence of primary cardiac neoplasms is low (0.0001-0.5% in autopsy series), these cardiac tumors provide unique diagnostic and therapeutic challenges.
Low-power photomicrograph of cardiac myxoma (hematoxylin and eosin stain).
High-power photomicrograph showing the histology of cardiac myxoma (hematoxylin and eosin stain). Note the dark staining polygonal cells characteristic of the tumor.
The clinical symptoms caused by cardiac tumors are generally secondary to their mass effect, local invasion, embolization, or constitutional symptoms. An intracardiac tumor mass may obstruct blood flow, compromise valve function, or induce neurological catastrophe secondary to tumor embolization. The location of the tumor determines the type of symptoms produced, which can include syncope, angina, dyspnea, edema, ascites, depression of pump function, cardiomyopathy, and pulmonary hypertension. Some tumors produce no symptoms and are found incidentally as a consequence of secondary symptoms such as stroke or evidence of peripheral embolization.
Most benign tumors can be resected completely with excellent outcomes. Consider heart transplantation in those instances in which the benign tumor is too large to resect. Resection is the treatment of choice for malignant cardiac tumors; however, long-term results are dismal, even with the addition of adjuvant therapy.