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Semin Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2000 Apr;12(2):89-100.

Unusual primary tumors of the heart.

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Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester 01655-0304, USA.


Primary tumors of the heart, with the exception of atrial myxomas, occur rarely; tumors metastatic to or directly invasive of the heart are far more common. About 75% of primary tumors are benign, and 75% of these are atrial myxomas. The benign tumors include rhabdomyomas, fibromas, papillary fibroelastomas, hemangiomas, pericardial cysts, lipomas, hamartomas, teratomas, mesotheliomas, and paragangliomas or pheochromocytomas. The last 3 may also be malignant. The malignant tumors consist of various sarcomas: myxosarcoma, liposarcoma, angiosarcoma, fibrosarcoma, leiomyosarcoma, osteosarcoma, synovial sarcoma, rhabdomyosarcoma, undifferentiated sarcoma, reticulum cell sarcoma, neurofibrosarcoma, and malignant fibrous histiocytoma. Cardiac tumors produce a large variety of symptoms through any of 4 mechanisms. Their mass can obstruct intracardiac blood flow or interfere with valve function. Local invasion can lead to arrhythmias or pericardial effusions with tamponade. Bits of tumor can embolize, causing systemic deficits when the tumors are on the left side of the heart. Finally, the tumors may cause systemic or constitutional symptoms. Some tumors, of course, produce no symptoms and become evident as incidental findings. The most useful diagnostic tool is the echocardiogram, which in almost all cases precisely locates the tumor and defines its extent. The echocardiographic appearance may also allow quite accurate prediction of the tumor type and whether it is malignant or benign. Magnetic resonance imaging serves as the next most important test where the density of T1 and T2 images may allow tumor cell type identification. With few exceptions, these tumors require operative excision. Most benign tumors can be resected completely; a few, because of their large size, cannot be, and only tumor debulking may be possible. Heart transplantation should be considered for these patients. Many of the malignant tumors cannot be resected completely, either because of the extent of local spread and invasion or because of the frequent distant metastases. Transplantation may also be an option for those with extensive local disease. The long-term results for resected benign tumors are excellent; the long-term results for sarcomas are very poor, and there are few survivors. For patients with unresectable sarcomas, radiation and chemotherapy may be used, but without great expectation of successful results.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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