Atrial Myxoma: How Can It Impact Your Life

Atrial Myxoma – Primary cardiac neoplasms are extremely rare, however, among the few that occur, more than 50% are detected as myxomas. An atrial myxoma is a rare form of tumor that grows on the inner cardiac wall on either of the two atria (upper chambers) of the heart. Most commonly, atrial myxoma is detected on the left atrium of the heart inclined towards the interatrial septum; such a position may primarily cause an atrial septal defect. However, in rare cases where the myxoma is detected on the right atrium, it is medically correlated with atrial fibrillation as well as tricuspid (valve controlling the blood flow from the right atrium to the right ventricle) stenosis.

Atrial Myxoma
Atrial Myxoma

The condition is rare but has been diagnosed in approximately 31 fetal cases as per the reports submitted from around 26 countries worldwide. Apart from that, atrial myxoma is known to affect women in a greater proportion than it does to men. As per statistical data obtained after intense research, almost 1 out of 10 cases of atrial myxoma are hereditary and is passed onto the proceeding generation. Myxoma, irrespective of its location, can either be benign or malignant. The malignancy of such tumors occurring inside the heart depends on several factors, determining which is ideal for further treatments.

What is Atrial Myxoma?

Atrial Myxomas are often detected at an early age. Due to its extremely rare occurrence, myxomas are often hard to detect and diagnose. The early symptoms are often missed to be recognized which causes delayed treatment and thus, can prove to be life-threatening. Cardiac myxoma irrespective of their location of occurrence can be distinguished on the basis of pulmonary as well as systemic embolism.

Among the different types of myxoma, the rarest forms occur due to genetic anomaly. These types of myxoma are mostly familial, that is, are inherited from the previous generation. These can be detected as tumors or mass growths of connective tissue origin, as well as stromal (or mesenchymal) origin. These are capable of inducing several complications inside the body, which may or may not be disrupting the metabolic changes. However, cardiac malfunctioning is pretty commonly accompanied by myxoma which, in severe cases, may also result in cardiac failure. The symptoms, complications, and risk factors are primarily dependent on the region of occurrence as well as the size of the tumor detected.

Atrial Myxoma Diagnosis and Symptoms

Myxoma is often hard to detect as it does not portray any specific symptom of its own. In general, candidates screened for other cardiac anomaly or discomfort get diagnosed with cardiac myxoma via MRI or CT scan. In most cases, candidates may experience any of the following symptoms momentarily which may cease to exist with the change of position. Hence, here are some of the symptoms associated with atrial myxoma:

  • Difficulty in breathing. One must understand that difficulty in breathing can be experienced either while laying on the back, or front or on either side. The strenuous feeling may go away once the position is changed.
  • Stiffness of chest which may be accompanied by pain every time an individual breathes.
  • Feeling short of breath, especially during working or even during taking a light walk.
  • Palpitations or feeling the heartbeat loud and prominently.
  • Difficulty in coughing, sneezing or laughing

Apart from these, there are certain symptoms which are indirectly correlated to cardiac myxoma, which are:

  • Clubbing of phalanges or fingers
  • Reynaud phenomenon
  • Recurrent fever
  • Color change on fingers with a change in pressure
  • Malaise
  • Unexplained inflammation in any body part
  • Pain in various joints.

The treatments specific to myxoma is rare and is preceded by general treatments in the initial stages. The candidate must be preliminarily tested for CBC or Complete Blood Count as well as ESR or Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate.

Apart from that, the other available options for diagnosis are:

  • Echocardiogram
  • ECG
  • X-ray (chest)
  • CT scan (chest)
  • MRI (chest or heart)
  • Angiography (left or right side of the heart)

Treatments. Surgeries Available for Atrial Myxoma

Cardiac myxomas can be life-threatening. In cases where the tumor is situated near the atrial septum, the condition can often be mistaken as an atrial septal defect. Myxomas are primarily treated via open surgeries, in order to remove the tumor completely.

The complete tumor needs to be removed. Surgeons often scrape the surrounding tissue as well, in order to eliminate any residual tumor cell present. This is because any leftover cell may trigger a recurrence of the tumor. In cases where the valve gets completely destroyed, valve replacement surgeries are also required for the same.

Surgeries are often the only procedure implemented in case of benign tumors, however, if the myxoma diagnosed is malignant in nature, other therapies, (chemotherapy, radiotherapy) may also be required along with.

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Article Author Details

Chandan Singh

Chandan Singh is a freelance writer, blogger, and digital media journalist. He has a management degree in Supply Chain & Operations Management and Marketing and boasts a wide-ranging background in digital media.