Cardiac neoplasms are rare and the vast majority are metastatic in origin. Symptoms of cardiac neoplasms (primary or metastatic) usually appear late in the course of the disease and are often ignored because of the more severe effects of the primary malignant disorder or its therapy. Consequently, cardiac neoplasms, especially metastatic ones, are often not discovered until autopsy.
To assess the incidence of cardiac neoplasms at autopsy and to determine the sites of origins of metastatic cardiac neoplasms.
The pathology records from consecutive autopsies performed at the University Health Network, Toronto, Ontario, from January 1973 to May 2004 were reviewed. They showed 266 cases of neoplasms involving the heart among 11,432 consecutive autopsies. These cases were then categorized based on their system of origin and further subclassified into specific primary site categories. As well, the type of cardiac tissue affected was noted in 193 cases (72.6%).
The 266 autopsy cases involving cardiac neoplasms represented 2.33% of the total number of autopsies. Among the 266 cases, two neoplasms were primaries, while 264 were metastatic in origin. Metastatic cardiac neoplasms most frequently metastasized from the respiratory system, followed (in order of decreasing frequency) by the hematopoietic, gastrointestinal, breast and genitourinary systems. A minority of metastatic cardiac neoplasms were found to have spread from other systems. Cardiac neoplasms most frequently involved the pericardium, followed (in order of decreasing frequency) by the myocardium, epicardium and endocardium.
There were 132 times more metastatic cardiac neoplasms than primary cardiac neoplasms found in the present study. The most common sites of metastatic origin were the lungs, bone marrow (leukemia/multiple myeloma), breasts and lymph nodes (lymphoma). Leukemias were more prevalent in the present study than in previous studies. The pericardium was the tissue that was most frequently affected by metastatic cardiac neoplasms.
Comment In: Can J Cardiol. 2006 Jan;22(1):8016511961