Intra Cardiac Tumors

A small percentage of the population develops tumors of the heart. Roughly 95% of these primary tumors are called myxomas, and 90% of these occur in the left atrium. All myxomas should be removed to prevent death or stroke which will inevitably occur if left untreated. These tumors are most often benign (non-cancerous).

Primary tumors of the heart are very uncommon, and are generally benign. They most often occur in the left atrium. The primary risk to the patient is the risk of embolization, in which a piece of the tumor breaks off and either moves to the brain causing a stroke, or obstructs blood flow through the heart itself.

The majority of all tumors are removed through a sternal procedure, but the da Vinci system can be used to remove all but a few intracardiac tumors. As with a robotic mitral valve repair, the operation is performed through a very small incision on the right side of the chest. With this minimally invasive procedure, recovery time is reduced: two weeks (instead of two months for procedures that involve a sternotomy).

Other benefits include fewer infections, fewer blood transfusions, reduced pain, and better cosmetic results, with less scarring.

If you are in need of surgery for intra cardiac tumors or to find out if you are a candidate for minimally invasive robotic surgery, please contact us.

Indications for operation

The need for surgery is typically indicated by severe mitral insufficiency, and the presence of symptoms of congestive heart failure. The diagnosis by echocardiography, without the presence of symptoms, can be enough to justify repair. Enlargement of the left atrium, especially when a recent onset of an irregular heartbeat (often atrial fibrillation) has been observed, is an indication for surgery. Recent data shows much greater benefit and lower risk operations if mitral insufficiency is corrected sooner rather than later.


When repair is possible, the probability of long-term success is good, with an 85 to 95% chance of no further procedures being required for approximately ten years. When more complex repair is required, the probability of further surgery goes up. Depending on the cause of the mitral insufficiency, it can be difficult to predict the results of repair.

With successful mitral valve replacement, the patient can expect to return to the same condition or better that they enjoyed prior to the surgery. Blood thinners are often prescribed for six weeks to three months after the operation. Commonly, this prescription is not required in the long term unless other indications are present. There are usually few restrictions on patient activity once surgical wounds have healed.