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Virginia Gissel
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vgissel@tmhs.org
 

Surgeon at Houston Methodist West Hospital removes rare tumor from inside heart chamber

West Houston, TX

Media Contac
Virginia Gissel
832-522-0311
vgissel@tmhs.org

Mended Hearts

Surgeon at Houston Methodist West Hospital removes rare tumor from inside heart chamber

HOUSTON, TX—(July 12, 2013)—A surgeon at Houston Methodist West Hospital removed a benign tumor from inside a patient’s heart last month, a first for the hospital.

Local resident Margarita Gomez, 62, initially saw a cardiologist for a fluttering in her chest and swelling she attributed to other causes.

“Preliminary tests showed no valve abnormalities but something seemed amiss, so we ordered a heart ultrasound and discovered the large benign tumor,” said cardiologist Dr. Ram Pai. Gomez’ tumor, called a cardiac myxoma, was removed from inside the left atrial chamber of her heart.

There is no medical treatment available to stop the growth of cardiac myxomas, according to Dr. Javier Lafuente, a cardiothoracic surgeon at Houston Methodist West. Surgery is typically performed as soon as possible because of the potential for obstruction of blood flow, heart attacks and other cardiac events, or even cerebrovascular accidents.

"This surgery is an important milestone in our program and further demonstrates our ability to perform complex surgeries here in the community that can protect our patients from more serious complications,” said Dr. Lafuente.

Using the same surgical approach used for valve surgery, Dr. Lafuente entered the chest cavity through the sternum, and removed the tumor and stalk from Gomez’ heart. Gomez went home six days after her surgery.

Mended Hearts

Cardiac tumors of all types are rare, usually occurring in one out of every 500 cardiac surgeries. Noncancerous tumors, referred to as myxomas, are typically found in one of the atrial chambers of the heart, often attached to an inside wall by a stalk which may allow the tumor to move when the patient changes positions. Approximately 75 percent of patients are women in their mid-50s. Symptoms are typically related to valve obstruction causing reduced blood flow, tumor-related embolic events and little understood systemic symptoms.

“My physician’s foresight to go the extra mile and find this tumor made the difference for me,” Gomez said. “I was anxious about the procedure, but my surgeon and the staff spent extra time with me to set my mind at ease. I am looking forward to getting back to my normal daily routines, including holding my grandchildren.”