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Cardiac myxomas, although uncommon are one of the commonest primary cardiac tumors and account for ~50% primary benign cardiac tumors.
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Cardiac myxomas are the most common primary cardiac tumor in adults (~50%) but are relatively infrequent in childhood, where cardiac rhabdomyomas are more frequent 8,11. The incidence of cardiac myxomas is approximately 0.5 per million population per year 12. There is a broad range in the age of presentation (11-82 years), with most patients presenting in adulthood (mean ~50 years of age) 7,13. There is a recognized female predilection 7,13.
An uncommon but well-described association with multiple endocrine neoplasia syndromes has been described, and is known as Carney complex 7,8.
Approximately 20% of patients are asymptomatic, with myxomas being found incidentally on imaging of the heart 7. Presumably, as the amount of imaging increases, so will this figure.
Clinical features are variable and depend on the location and other associated pathology, e.g. valve destruction. However, a triad of symptoms is recognized 7,8:
left sided: dyspnea, orthopnea, pulmonary edema
right sided: symptoms of right heart failure
distribution will depend on the location of the tumor
most are left sided, and, therefore, most are systemic (brain or extremities)
weight loss, fatigue, weakness
may resemble infective endocarditis (fever, arthralgia, lethargy)
In ~20% of patients, arrhythmias may be identified 7.
On auscultation, a cardiac murmur is usually present. A characteristic finding in patients with pedunculated and prolapsing myxoma is the so-called "tumor plop" 7.
Controversy exists in regards to the exact nature of these masses, but in general, they are considered benign neoplasms. Some authors believe that they represent organized thrombus.
Morphologically they are often hemorrhagic and are of variable firmness. They can be sessile or pedunculated (more common) and of variable size (1-10 cm). They most frequently arise in the left atrium, attached to the interatrial septum in the region of the fossa ovale.
Patients with atrial myxomas can be divided into two groups: typical (vast majority) and atypical 7,9:
typical: solitary with ~75% located in the left atrium
atypical: earlier presentation; multiple tumors are common and are more frequently located in the right heart or left ventricle
Overall distribution 8,9:
Chest radiographs can be normal 2. Abnormalities, if present, are non-specific and include:
intracardiac tumoral calcification
evidence of mitral valve obstruction
evidence of elevated left atrial pressure, e.g. pulmonary edema
Echocardiography is usually the initial modality used for identification and evaluation of cardiac myxomas. They appear as hyperechogenic lesions with a well-defined stalk. Moreover, echocardiography can be useful to assess the mobility of the tumor, as it often protrudes through valve flaps.
Myxomas, as is the case with other cardiac tumors, appear as intracardiac masses, most often in the left atrium and attached to the interatrial septum. They are usually heterogeneously low attenuating (approximately two-thirds of cases 2,8). Due to repeated episodes of hemorrhage, dystrophic calcification is common 8. Calcification tends to be more common in right atrial myxoma 15.
If the mass is pedunculated, the motion within the heart can be demonstrated, including prolapse through the mitral valve.
MRI appearances are heterogeneous, reflecting the non-uniformity of these masses. They are typically spherical or ovoid masses which may be sessile or pedunculated 2,3.
T1: tend to be low to intermediate signal, but areas of hemorrhage may be high 3
T2: can be variable due to heterogeneity in tumor components, e.g. low signal calcific components; high signal myxomatous components
GRE: may show blooming of calcific components
T1 C+ (Gd): shows enhancement (important discriminator from a thrombus)
Treatment and prognosis
Complete resection in typical cases is usually curative with recurrence rates (either locally or elsewhere in the heart) reported in 0-5% of cases 11,14. In atypical cases or those with Carney complex, the rate is much higher (12-22%) 7,11.
embolic complications: e.g. stroke, hemorrhage from neoplastic intracranial aneurysm
On imaging consider:
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- 3. Masui T, Takahashi M, Miura K et-al. Cardiac myxoma: identification of intratumoral hemorrhage and calcification on MR images. AJR Am J Roentgenol. 1995;164 (4): 850-2. AJR Am J Roentgenol (citation) - Pubmed citation
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- 6. Ryan R, Abbara S, Colen RR et-al. Cardiac valve disease: spectrum of findings on cardiac 64-MDCT. AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2008;190 (5): W294-303. doi:10.2214/AJR.07.2936 - Pubmed citation
- 7. Grebenc ML, Rosado de christenson ML, Burke AP et-al. Primary cardiac and pericardial neoplasms: radiologic-pathologic correlation. Radiographics. 20 (4): 1073-103. Radiographics (full text) - Pubmed citation
- 8. Schoepf UJ. CT of the heart, principles and applications. Springer. (2005) ISBN:1592598188. Read it at Google Books - Find it at Amazon
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- 10. Araoz PA, Eklund HE, Welch TJ et-al. CT and MR imaging of primary cardiac malignancies. Radiographics. 19 (6): 1421-34. Radiographics (full text) - Pubmed citation
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- 12. Zhang M, Zhang LS, Zhang. A Patient With Dizziness, Chest Pain, Rash, and Nail Changes. (2021) JAMA. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.15176 - Pubmed
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- 14. Vroomen M, Vroomen HP, Vroomen KA, Vroomen SHM, Vroomen vSA, Vroomen. Long-term follow-up of 82 patients after surgical excision of atrial myxomas. (2015) Interactive cardiovascular and thoracic surgery. doi:10.1093/icvts/ivv125 - Pubmed
- 15. Chen R, Deng X, Luo J, Huang P. Calcified Inferior Vena Cava and Right Atrial Myxoma in an 18-Month-Old Male: A Case Report. Medicine (Baltimore). 2018;97(25):e11073. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000011073 - Pubmed