My 65-year-old mother was just diagnosed with a benign tumour on her heart. She feels okay but says she will need surgery. What kind of surgery? What will this involve?
October 12, 2012 5:57 AM   Subscribe

My 65-year-old mother was just diagnosed with a benign tumour on her heart. She feels okay but says she will need surgery. What kind of surgery? What will this involve?

The longer version: she had some kind of fainting spell on the weekend with disorientation and amnesia and so on. They checked her out and said it was 'transient global amnesia' but they did an echocardiogram before she left and found something called a 'myxoma.' She says she feels fine and she's waiting for a consult from a cardiologist, but that she will likely need surgery because if a piece of it breaks off, she is at risk for a stroke.

So, what are we looking at here? What kind of surgery? What recovery time would we be looking at? How serious is this? You are not my doctor, obviously. But I don't have a ton of experience with medical stuff and I think she would downplay this stuff to my sister and I so we wouldn't worry. We are not sure how bad this is and what gameplan we are looking at to get this resolved. Fwiw she is otherwise in good health, lost a bunch of weight last year, fairly fit and strong.
posted by JoannaC to Health & Fitness (4 answers total)
Well, as you know, the cardiologist is the person who can answer this question. It sounds to me that they are going to excise the growth entirely, since the concern is that a piece of it breaking off is dangerous.
posted by thelonius at 6:01 AM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Go with her--if she's okay with that--to her cardiologist appointment and ask your questions then.
posted by Carol Anne at 6:21 AM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

My Dad had a myxoma tumour removed from his heart a few years ago when he was in his 50's. He ended up having open heart surgery very shortly after the diagnosis to remove the tumour. They opened up his chest (ie his rib cage) and removed the tumour from his heart and then put him back together.

Recovery was a bit of a beast and even though my Dad was in excellent shape going into the surgery, it still took him a while to regain his strength and return to normal life.

He is perfectly fine now and has suffered no long term ill effects that I am aware of.

It is extremely good fortune that the doctors have discovered the tumour - my understanding is that most of the time, they only find these things after the patient suffers a major stroke or heart attack.

Best of luck to you and your mum.
posted by netsirk at 9:33 AM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

IANYD and not a cardiologist or a cardiothoracic surgeon, but if she has no significant other co-morbidities (illnesses) that she will most likely do well after the surgery. That said, every surgery has risks (the ever present risks of infection and bleeding, for example, or other typical surgical risks like blood clots) and because this is usually an open heart surgery, that is not a minor procedure to recover from and it will be a challenge. Remember, to open someone's chest you've got to open their ribcage (called a 'thoracotomy') and that involves sawing through bone, is obviously going to be painful in terms of healing (damage to ribs and chest wall hurts every time you breathe/cough/laugh, and you can't stop yourself from breathing), and the longer you have to stay in a hospital (while you're usually mostly in bed and not up and about) after a procedure, the more deconditioned your body will be and the more likely you are to need more rehabilitation time.

I would imagine full recovery would take weeks to months, but this is really a question for the team taking care of her. Ask about how big the myxoma is and the location of it, and how that compares to the average myxoma, that would give you additional information on how straightforward the case is. If you want to get specific information ask your mom to ensure she has on her file that information can be released to you and talk to the doc directly. Be sure she has advanced directives in place (as always prior to any major procedure). Hope that's useful and good luck to your mom!
posted by treehorn+bunny at 2:24 PM on October 12, 2012

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