Condition 101 About Atrial Myxoma

What is the definition of Atrial Myxoma?

An atrial myxoma is a noncancerous tumor in the upper left or right side of the heart. It most often grows on the wall that separates the two sides of the heart. This wall is called the atrial septum.

What are the alternative names for Atrial Myxoma?

Cardiac tumor - myxoma; Heart tumor - myxoma

What are the causes for Atrial Myxoma?

A myxoma is a primary heart (cardiac) tumor. This means that the tumor started within the heart. Most heart tumors start somewhere else.

Primary cardiac tumors such as myxomas are rare. About 75% of myxomas occur in the left atrium of the heart. They most often begin in the wall that divides the two upper chambers of the heart. They can occur in other intra-cardiac sites as well. Atrial myxomas are sometimes linked with valve obstruction stenosis and atrial fibrillation.

Left
Right

Myxomas are more common in women. About 1 in 10 myxomas are passed down through families (inherited). These tumors are called familial myxomas. They tend to occur in more than one part of the heart at a time, and often cause symptoms at a younger age.

What are the symptoms for Atrial Myxoma?

Many myxomas will not cause symptoms. These are often discovered when an imaging study (echocardiogram, MRI, CT) is done for another reason.

Symptoms may occur at any time, but often they go along with a change in body position.

Symptoms of a myxoma may include:

  • Breathing difficulty when lying flat or on one side or the other
  • Breathing difficulty when asleep
  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Sensation of feeling your heart beat (palpitations)
  • Shortness of breath with activity
  • Symptoms due to embolism of tumor material

The symptoms and signs of left atrial myxomas often mimic mitral stenosis (narrowing of the valve between the left atrium and the left ventricle). Right atrial myxomas rarely produce symptoms until they have grown to be quite large (5 inches wide, or 13 cm).

Other symptoms may include:

  • Bluish skin, especially on the fingers (Raynaud phenomenon)
  • Cough
  • Curvature of nails accompanied by soft tissue swelling (clubbing) of the fingers
  • Fever
  • Fingers that change color upon pressure or with cold or stress
  • General discomfort (malaise)
  • Joint pain
  • Swelling in any part of the body
  • Weight loss without trying

What are the current treatments for Atrial Myxoma?

Surgery is needed to remove the tumor, especially if it is causing heart failure symptoms or an embolism.

What is the outlook (prognosis) for Atrial Myxoma?

Untreated, a myxoma can lead to an embolism (tumor cells or a clot that breaks off and travels in the bloodstream). This can lead to a blockage of blood flow. Pieces of the tumor can move to the brain, eye, or limbs.

If the tumor grows inside the heart, it can block blood flow, causing symptoms of obstruction.

What are the possible complications for Atrial Myxoma?

Complications may include:

  • Arrhythmias
  • Pulmonary edema
  • Peripheral emboli
  • Blockage of the heart valves

REFERENCES

Lenihan DJ, Yusuf SW, Shah A. Tumors affecting the cardiovascular system. In: Zipes DP, Libby P, Bonow RO, Mann DL, Tomaselli GF, Braunwald E, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 95.

Tazelaar HD, Maleszewski JJ. Tumors of the heart and pericardium. In: Fletcher CDM, ed. Diagnostic Histopathology of Tumors. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 2.

Latest Advances On Atrial Myxoma

  • Condition: Giant Left Atrial Myxoma/Congestive Heart Failure
  • Journal: Kyobu geka. The Japanese journal of thoracic surgery
  • Treatment Used: Tumor Excision
  • Number of Patients: 1
  • Published —
This article reviewed the case of a patient with giant left atrial myxoma (heart tumor) and congestive heart failure (when the heart muscle doesn't pump blood as well as it should).
  • Condition: Cardiac Tumors
  • Journal: Revista medica de Chile
  • Treatment Used: Surgery
  • Number of Patients: 78
  • Published —
In this study, researchers evaluated the outcomes of performing surgery to remove cardiac tumors.

Clinical Trials For Atrial Myxoma

Clinical Trial
  • Status: Recruiting
  • Participants: 3000
  • Start Date: April 6, 2017
Familial Investigations of Childhood Cancer Predisposition