As with every other organ the heart can be affected by tumor and its relapses. Primary tumors of the heart are rare. The incidence varies between 0.0017 and 0.19% in unselected autopsy studies. Three quarters of primary heart tumors are benign and half of them are atrial myxomas. Other benign tumors are lipoma, papillary fibroelastoma, rhabdomyoma and fibroma [1
Myxomas are mesenchymal tumors, which can occur at any age, however, they mainly exist between the 30th and 60th year of life. This disease is approximately two to three times more prevalent in women than in men [1
]. About 75% of the myxomas are located in the left atrium, 20% in the right atrium and 5% in one of the ventricles. Multiple tumors in different ventricles have been described in a few patients [1
]. Myxomas are typically sporadic and isolated, only in around five percent of all cases this disease occurs as a familial disease [1
]. This group of patients are younger, frequently have multifocal tumors, but, there is no gender preference. Because every fifth patient suffers from additional neoplasms this disease pattern is also called 'complex myxoma' or Carney complex [1
]. Most of the myxomas are pedunculated (seldom broad based) and are often located in the area of fossa ovalis, but they can also occur anywhere in the atrial wall, the vena cava or rarely at the heart valves [1
]. The tumor's mobility depends mostly on the length of the tumor stem. The clinical picture is determined by localization, dimension, condition and tumor mobility [1
]. Characteristically, the period until the diagnosis is made is highly variable, because the time free of symptoms can be quite long. Usually a local complication leads to symptoms and this requires further diagnostic tests. Most common complications are embolism (about 30-40%, both peripheral and central, whereas central embolisms are more frequent), intra cardiac obstruction and obstruction of the ventricular outflow tract (seen in left or right heart failure with symptoms of dyspnoea, syncope, supra ventricular cardiac arrhythmia). Another common complication is the so called 'myxoma disease' with fever, arthralgies, polymyositis, weight loss and hypergammaglobulinaemia [1
The clinical examination, chest X-ray and ECG are inefficient and non-specific. Often the diagnosis is an incidental finding detected by echocardiography measurements in the context of peripheral tumor emboli diagnosis. However, transthoracic or transesophageal echocardiography can show exactly the tumor's position and dimension, alternatives are cardiac CT and cardiac MRI. Differential diagnosis to consider is always a thrombus giving the same clinical picture. The preferred treatment is always surgical removal indicating a curative approach. Both short- and long-term results are excellent [1
An operation is always indicated because the outcome and clinical course without intervention cannot be predicted. Due to the high rate for embolisms and the danger of the sudden cardiac death the operation should be performed as soon as possible following diagnosis [1
]. The risk of a myxoma relapse is well documented in the literature. Reasons for relapses are: inadequate resections, intraoperative implantation of parts of the tumor and multi-located tumor origin. The relapse risk for sporadically occurring myxomas varies between 1 and 3% and it is increased significantly for patients with familial aggregation or Carney complex [1
]. The Carney complex (CNC) is an autosomal dominant inheritable disease characterized by myxomas, schwannomas, germ cell tumors, abnormal skin pigmentation and endocrine hyperactivity. The average age at the time of diagnosis is around the age of 20 [4
]. There is no gender-related difference and the Carney complex can occur in all races. In 50% of the patients there is a mutation in the PRKAR1A gene on chromosome 17 (type I or CNC1). This gene codes for the regulatory subunit type 1A of protein kinase A, that plays an important role in different endocrine signaling cascades and also as a tumor suppressor gene. A mutation on chromosome 2 probably codes for a, so far, not characterized variation of the Carney complex (type II of CNC2) [8
]. The life expectancy for patients with Carney complex is reduced. Most of the patients die from complications of cardiac myxomas, metastasizing or intra cranial psammomatous melanotic schwannomas, thyroid carcinomas and metastasising pancreatic or germ cell tumors [8
]. Hence, close monitoring is necessary for patients with Carney complex and their blood relations. With an additional genetic analysis the diagnosis of Carney complex was made for our patient.
As with sporadically occurring myxomas a resection of the cardiac tumor and its relapses should be performed in patients with Carney complex. Serious surgical problems are especially peri- and epicardiac adhesions from previous operations which increase after every relapse resection. This can lead to a situation where the surgical risk is higher than the risk of death due to complications of the myxoma. Therefore a careful consideration of the complication-benefit analysis should be made especially for patients with Carney complex. In individual cases a non-operative approach has been described [7
]. In the event of the second relapse we also recommended a non-operative approach combined with continued anticoagulation as prophylaxis against apposition thrombi and careful clinical examination. Our reasoning consisted of the two previously performed operations were the dimension, localization and morphology of the tumor relapse. However, due to the increase in the dimension of the lesion and appearance of cardiac symptoms we decided to resect the myxoma relapse for a fourth time.
Normally echocardiographic follow up should be performed each year to detect myxoma relapses early. Patients with known Carney complex should have this examination every six month if they have already had a surgical resection [8
]. After the fourth operation due to the third myxoma relapse we considered platelet aggregation inhibition for our patient as a treatment to prevent complications associated with emboli as sufficient.