Atrial Myxoma is the most common primary cardiac tumor. In the adult population, 50% of all benign cardiac tumors are Atrial Myxoma. We surgeons treat quite a number of these lesions because of their frequency. The good news is that the potential for a permanent cure after resection is very high. New minimally invasive atrial myxoma surgery techniques are now available in specialized centers. Most atrial myxomas arise in the atrial chambers inside the heart and tend to be friable and gelatinous in consistence. There presence inside the heart can cause several symptoms:
* Tumor occlusion. In some cases they are so bulky that can actually interfere with the blood flow inside the heart. Patients with this situation often complain of shortness of breath, palpitations and fatigue even with light exercise. This is a life threatening condition that needs a prompt evaluation and management
* Embolic manifestations. Atrial myxoma tissue is friable and can break off into the general circulation and cause strokes, heart attacks, leg gangrene and other embolic complications
* Constitutional manifestations. Some patients experience fevers, headaches, malaise and other vague symptoms that warrant further investigation
There is also a good percentage of patients who have absolutely no symptoms and are lucky enough to find out because an imaging test (MRI, CAT scan or Echocardiogram) of the heart was obtained for other reasons.
If you or a loved one are experiencing any of these symptoms you should seek medical advice and inquire whether an echocardiogram can be obtained to rule out the presence of an atrial myxoma inside the heart. Echocardiograms are simple, non invasive imaging studies that can show the cardiac tumors and help make a diagnosis before any serious complications arise.
Once the diagnosis is made it is time to find a heart surgery center that can treat this problem and allow the best postoperative recovery. Most Minimally invasive heart surgery centers can now offer a definitive treatment with atrial myxoma surgery performed through a tiny 2″ incision hidden in the skin fold underneath the right breast. The atrial myxoma surgery is carried out in between two ribs and does not involve any bone cutting. Most patients recover promptly, with minimal pain, no blood transfusions and superior cosmetic results with a scar effectively out of sight. The overwhelming majority of patients can return to their homes and families two days after surgery and back to work in one to two weeks.
It goes without saying that this is a great alternative to the old-fashioned atrial myxoma surgery carried out by splitting the breast bone with a 10″ incision in the center of the chest. This traditional approach poses a significant delay to recovery and is associated with more bleeding, pain and much longer hospital stays.
Now that you are informed consumers, DO NOT BE SHY about asking about minimally invasive options. If your local surgical service does not offer this option consider contacting a minimally invasive and bloodless heart surgery center to discuss your case and plan your treatment. It is certainly worth a trip out of town to have the best treatment for your heart. Most out-of-town patients are allowed to drive or fly back home within a week after surgery and can then follow up with their local cardiologist.