Myxoma is a non-cancerous (benign) tumor of the heart. In fact, it is the most common primary heart tumor. A primary heart tumor is one that originates within the heart as opposed to another organ or tissue. Approximately 75% of myxomas are located within the left atrium. Typically, myxomas grow off of the inter-atrial septum (wall that separates the two atria). Myxomas tend to be solitary (occur as a single mass).

Causes of Myxoma

The cause of myxoma is unknown. Myxomas are more common in females than in males. Approximately 10% of myxomas are thought to be genetic (passed down through families). These are called familial myxomas and are more likely to be numerous and occur in younger patients.

Symptoms of Myxoma

Many patients with a myxoma do not have any symptoms. For those patients that do have symptoms they may have difficulty breathing when lying flat, chest pain or tightness, coughing, dizziness, fainting, fevers, or flu-like illness.

Diagnosing Myxoma

The diagnosis of myxoma is most commonly made by echocardiography (cardiac ultrasound). Additionally, computed tomography (CT scan) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may confirm the diagnosis.

Surgery for Myxoma

MyxomaThe only treatment of a myxoma is surgical excision. This needs to be performed by a highly skilled cardiac surgeon because incomplete removal can result in recurrence of the tumor. Once a patient is diagnosed with a myxoma, surgical excision is usually recommended to prevent complications. These include arrhythmias (irregular heart rhythm), heart failure, embolism (breaking off of tumor cells which then travel within the bloodstream) which can cause stroke or blockage of blood flow to other organs.

Periodic echocardiographic evaluation is recommended for patients with a history of surgical excision of a myxoma.