by Scholten A


Cardiac tumor resection is the removal of a tumor from the heart. Some healthy tissue around the tumor is also removed.

Reconstruction surgery may also be needed if a large area is affected.

Anatomy of the Heart
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Reasons for Procedure

This is done to treat tumors in the heart. Tumors can cause blockage of blood flow, problems with heart valves, or blood clots. They can also lead to heart failure.

Noncancerous tumors are often treated with just surgery. Cancerous tumors may need chemo-and/or radiation in addition to surgery.

Possible Complications

Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as:

  • Excess bleeding
  • Problems from anesthesia, such as wheezing or sore throat
  • Damage to other organs or structures
  • Blood clots
  • Infection
  • Heart attack or stroke

Things that may raise the risk of problems are:

  • Smoking
  • Drinking
  • Chronic disease such as diabetes or obesity

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

The surgical team may meet with you to talk about:

  • Anesthesia options
  • Any allergies you may have
  • Current medicines, herbs, and supplements that you take and whether you need to stop taking them before surgery
  • Fasting before surgery, such as avoiding food or drink after midnight the night before
  • Whether you need a ride to and from surgery
  • Tests that will need to be done before surgery such as ECG and imaging
  • Chemotherapy or radiation to shrink the tumor, if needed


General anesthesia will be used. You will be asleep.

Description of the Procedure

An incision will be made in the skin of the chest. A special device will open the ribs to expose the heart. A heart-lung machine will take over for the heart. It will pump blood through the body during surgery. The heart can then be stopped so surgery can begin.

The tumor and some tissue will be removed. Repairs or reconstruction will be done.. Once the repairs are complete, the heart-lung machine will be removed. The heart will start beating again. The heart will be observed to make sure it is working well.

Wires will be used to close the ribs. The wire will support the breastbone as it heals. The incision will be closed with stitches or staples. A bandage will be placed over the site.

How Long Will It Take?

About 3 to 5 hours

Will It Hurt?

Pain and swelling are common in the first 1 to 2 weeks. Medicine and home care help.

Average Hospital Stay

The usual length of stay is several days. You may need to stay longer if you have problems.

Post-procedure Care

At the Hospital

After the procedure, the staff may give medicines to control pain or nausea.

During your stay, the hospital staff will take steps to lower your risk of infection such as:

  • Washing their hands
  • Wearing gloves or masks
  • Keeping your incisions covered

There are also steps you can take to lower your risk of infection such as:

  • Washing your hands often and reminding visitors and staff to do the same
  • Reminding staff to wear gloves or masks
  • Not letting others touch your incisions
At Home

It will take about 4 to 6 weeks to recover. Physical activity will be limited during this time. You will need to delay your return to work for about 1 month or more.

Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor if you are not getting better or you have:

  • Signs of infection, such as fever or chills
  • Redness, swelling, excessive bleeding, or any discharge from the incision
  • Pain that you cannot control with medicine
  • Symptoms of depression that last 2 weeks or more

Call for medical help right away for:

  • Signs of a heart attack:
    • Squeezing sensation or pressure in the chest
    • Spreading pain in one or both arms, neck, back, or jaw
    • Shortness of breath
    • Lightheadedness that leads to fainting
    • Nausea
  • Signs of a stroke :
    • Face drooping
    • One arm drifts down
    • Difficulty talking


American Cancer Society 

American Heart Association 


Canadian Cancer Society 

Heart and Stroke Foundation 


Atrial myxoma. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed Januray 25, 2021.

Cardiac procedures and surgeries. American Heart Association website. Available at: Accessed January 25, 2021.

Heart surgery. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: Accessed January 25, 2021.

Rocha RV, Butany J, et al. Adipose tumors of the heart. J Card Surg. 2018;33(8):432-437.

Warning signs of heart attack, stroke & cardiac arrest. American Heart Association website. Available at: Accessed Januray 25, 2021.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcin Chwistek, MD
  • Review Date: 02/2020
  • Update Date: 01/25/2021