3 Things You Need To Know About Atrial Myxomas

4 January 2016
 Categories: , Blog

The atriums are the two chambers where blood enters the heart; one on the left, the other on the right. Atrial myxomas are benign tumors that form in the atriums of the heart, generally within the left atrium. Here are three things you need to know about atrial myxomas.

What are the signs of these tumors?

Heart tumors don't always cause symptoms, so you could have an atrial myxoma without feeling ill. Among people who do experience signs, heart tumors cause sudden symptoms that seem like heart attacks. These symptoms include chest pain, a rapid heart rate, fainting and difficulty breathing.

Some people have more general systemic symptoms. These symptoms include flu-like symptoms such as a fever or joint pain. Some people also experience vague symptoms like curvature of their nails. If you notice any of these symptoms, tell your doctor.

Often, atrial myxomas are discovered incidentally. Your doctor may discover them during your yearly exam or after ordering cardiac testing for another complaint.

What problems can they cause?

Atrial myxomas aren't cancerous, but unfortunately, that doesn't mean they're harmless. Due to their location, these tumors can cause a lot of problems for sufferers. The tumor can grow large enough to periodically block the flow of blood across your valves, according to NIH, which can make it hard for you to breathe.

The tumor, or a piece of it, can also break off, travel through your blood vessels, and cause an embolism (blood clot) when it gets stuck. This can lead to problems like strokes, pulmonary embolisms, or deep vein thrombosis, depending on where the dislodged tumor eventually ends up.

How are atrial myxomas treated?

There are no medications available to treat atrial myxomas, so they need to be removed surgically. Generally, this is done through median sternotomy, which involves making an incision down your sternum (breastbone) and dividing it to access your heart.

In some cases, minithoracotomy can be used instead. This procedure involves making a small incision on the side of the chest and then operating on the heart with the help of a robot and a video display.

These surgeries may sound scary, but they're actually very safe: the postoperative mortality is only 2.2%. The long-term prognosis is also excellent, according to follow-up studies of patients who have undergone atrial myxoma removal surgery. The surgery generally cures the tumor, though in up to 5% of people, the tumor will recur.

If you're concerned about atrial myxomas, visit a healthcare clinic, such as Orange Beach Walk-In Medical Care.