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Year : 2018  |  Volume : 19  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 137-140  

Papillary fibroelastoma of the left ventricle in a radiation-treated cancer patient

Department of Cardiology and Oncology, Hospital “Dr. Cosme Argerich,” Buenos Aires, Argentina

Date of Web Publication15-Apr-2019

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Tomas Francisco Cianciulli
Department of Cardiology and Oncology, Hospital “Dr. Cosme Argerich,” Buenos Aires
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


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We present the case of a 69-year-old female patient with a history of endometrial carcinoma in 1996, who underwent a total hysterectomy and bilateral adnexectomy. The patient also received chemotherapy and mediastinal radiotherapy followed by cancer remission. Ten years later she presented with heart failure and her Doppler-echocardiogram showed severe mitral regurgitation with pulmonary hypertension and a papillary fibroelastoma in the left ventricle. In 2011, she underwent a mitral valve replacement with a biological prosthesis and the pathology exam revealed valve damage consistent with radiotherapy- induced changes and confirmed the presence of a papillary fibroelastoma. This unusual mechanism of papillary fibroelastoma should be disseminated among cardiology physicians and in patients who have survived for long periods after radiotherapy. It is important to remember that cardiac complications may indeed occur, and the treating physician is responsible for detecting them.

Keywords: Cardiac tumor, echocardiography, left ventricular mass, malignancy, papillary fibroelastoma, radiotherapy

How to cite this article:
Cianciulli TF, Saccheri MC, Cozzarín A, Lax JA, Simonetti ME. Papillary fibroelastoma of the left ventricle in a radiation-treated cancer patient. Heart Views 2018;19:137-40

How to cite this URL:
Cianciulli TF, Saccheri MC, Cozzarín A, Lax JA, Simonetti ME. Papillary fibroelastoma of the left ventricle in a radiation-treated cancer patient. Heart Views [serial online] 2018 [cited 2023 Sep 22];19:137-40. Available from: https://www.heartviews.org/text.asp?2018/19/4/137/256233

   Introduction Top

Radiotherapy can affect the heart and lead to effusive and constrictive pericarditis, coronary artery disease, myocardial fibrosis, and valvular disease. Radiation-associated valvular disease can progress over several years from asymptomatic valvar thickening to symptomatic valvular dysfunction.

We report the case of a woman who developed severe mitral regurgitation and an endocardial left ventricular papillary fibroelastoma (PFE) a long time after chest radiotherapy. The mechanism for this pathology is demonstrated, and histological findings are shown.

   Case Presentation Top

This is a 69-year-old female with a history of endometrial carcinoma in 1996, who underwent a total hysterectomy and bilateral adnexectomy. The patient also received chemotherapy (doxorubicin and cisplatinum) and local radiotherapy (50 Gy) because of a single lung metastasis, with total remission during later follow-up.

Ten years later following radiotherapy, she experienced increasing breathlessness. A new pansystolic murmur at the left sternal edge. Her symptoms progressed to retrograde left heart failure.

An electrocardiogram showed sinus rhythm and complete right bundle branch block. Chest X-ray revealed a normal cardiac contour with upper right pleural thickening with appearance and blood flow redistribution consistent with pulmonary edema. A transthoracic and transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE) showed thickening and retraction of the mitral valve, severe mitral regurgitation, and severe pulmonary hypertension. The systolic left ventricular function was normal. An assessment of myocardial perfusion with single photon emission computed tomography and coronary angiography were normal. During follow-up, a transthoracic echocardiogram revealed an image consistent with a primary or metastatic cardiac tumor on the posteromedial papillary muscle [Figure 1]a and [Video 1], [Video 2]. Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) revealed a solid mass on the posteromedial papillary muscle with late enhancement, consistent with a primary cardiac tumor [Figure 1]b.
Figure 1: Transesophageal echocardiography. Longitudinal view of the left ventricle at 119° (a) and cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (b) show a solid mass on the posteromedial papillary muscle (arrows), measuring 21.9 mm × 14.6 mm with late gadolinium enhancement consistent with a primary cardiac tumor. LA: Left atrium, LV: Left ventricle, RV: Right atrium, Ao: Ascending aorta

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During surgery, the mitral valve was thickened, and the patient underwent mitral valve replacement with an SJM #29 biological prosthesis with resection of the tumor located in the posteromedial papillary muscle. During the postoperative period, the retrograde heart failure regressed, pulmonary pressures were normalized, and the patient remained symptom-free. A pathological examination revealed the presence of a tumor mass with a core of dense connective tissue surrounded by a layer of hyperplastic endocardial cells characteristic of a PFE [Figure 2]; the mitral valve had signs of radiotherapy-induced damage with increased collagen and dysmorphic nuclei.
Figure 2: Pathology examination. (a) Panoramic image of the papillary fibroelastoma and the villi. (b) With fluorescence technique, the same papilla shows an axis of elastic fibers

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After 8 years of follow-up, the patient remains asymptomatic.

   Discussion Top

Radiosensitivity of the myocardium, pericardium, and great vessels is an issue of great concern. Previously, the heart was thought to be a radio-resistant organ; however, this theory was subsequently abandoned when late cardiac involvement was found in young patients who had received radiotherapy treatment due to Hodgkin's disease.[1]

The prevalence of cardiac disease associated with radiation may clinically manifest after a very prolonged time period. Its incidence is on the rise because of the increasing survival of cancer patients. Modern treatment techniques seem to have decreased the toxicity, but long-term results that allow an assessment of its effects are still lacking. It is worth noting that survivors who do not experience recurrence of the original tumor or develop a second malignant tumor have a greater risk of cardiovascular death than the general population, and in some series that risk is fivefold.[2]

Radiation causes progressive and irreversible damage; acute and chronic pericardial manifestations are the most frequent manifestations seen in daily practice. However, valvular lesions, conduction abnormalities, and cardiomyopathies due to myocardial fibrosis or coronary disease have also been described. International guidelines on cancer management recommend aggressive management of cardiovascular risk factors and performing perfusion examinations or echocardiograms at baseline and 10 years after radiation therapy to detect coronary disease and valvular lesions in these patients.[3]

In terms of the additional incidental finding of a papillary fibroelastoma (PFE) on the papillary muscle, it should be noted that PFEs are the second most common primary benign cardiac tumor after myxoma, and it most often affects the heart valves, as opposed to myxomas, which are most often found in the atria.

A cardiac MRI with gadolinium showed that the solid mass on the papillary muscle exhibited late enhancement, suggesting that the mass was consistent with a primary cardiac tumor rather than a metastatic lesion. The characteristic irregular surface with mobile papillae observed on the TEE suggested that the tumor was a PFE.

The valves most frequently affected by PFEs are the mitral and aortic valves. In our experience with a total of 54 PFEs,[4] in 29.6% (16/54) of patients they were located in the endocardium of the left ventricle, as in this case. The most common symptoms are due to a peripheral embolism, and the following symptoms have been described: stroke, acute myocardial infarction, and sudden death due to an embolism or obstruction of the coronary ostium. This type of cardiac tumor is not associated with valvular regurgitation. Several authors have reported that this type of tumor is more often seen in elderly patients with long-standing heart disease; therefore, this suggests that they occur due to mechanical damage and involve a degenerative process.[5] In accordance with this theory, in a series of 17 patients with a diagnosis of fibroelastoma, echocardiography was shown to correlate well with pathological findings, and these tumors were usually found in areas of cardiac irritation, such as the aortic and mitral valves.[5] This information proved to be very important in our case, since the damage caused by radiotherapy might have affected the valvular and subvalvular mitral apparatus, thus enhancing the potential development of this type of tumor.

Papillary fibroelastoma is a rare complication of radiotherapy. The latent period between radiotherapy and these complications was 10 years and was related to the dose of radiation received. The increase in survival seen in cancer patients has resulted in an increased frequency of these types of complications. It is thought that PFE occur due to mechanical damage and involve a degenerative process.

   Conclusion Top

This unusual mechanism of formation of an actinic PFE should be disseminated among cardiologists. In patients who have survived for long periods of time after radiotherapy, it is important to remember that cardiac complications may indeed occur, and the treating physician is responsible for detecting them.

Declaration of patient consent

The authors certify that they have obtained all appropriate patient consent forms. In the form the patient(s) has/have given his/her/their consent for his/her/their images and other clinical information to be reported in the journal. The patients understand that their names and initials will not be published and due efforts will be made to conceal their identity, but anonymity cannot be guaranteed.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

   References Top

Hancock SL, Tucker MA, Hoppe RT. Factors affecting late mortality from heart disease after treatment of Hodgkin's disease. JAMA 1993;270:1949-55.  Back to cited text no. 1
Hawkins M, Kingston L, Kinnier Wilson L. Late deaths after treatment for childhood cancer. Arch Dis Child 1990;65:1356-63.  Back to cited text no. 2
Aleman BM, van den Belt-Dusebout AW, De Bruin ML, van 't Veer MB, Baaijens MH, de Boer JP, et al. Late cardiotoxicity after treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma. Blood 2007;109:1878-86.  Back to cited text no. 3
Cianciulli TF, Soumoulou JB, Lax JA, Saccheri MC, Cozzarin A, Beck MA, et al. Papillary fibroelastoma: Clinical and echocardiographic features and initial approach in 54 cases. Echocardiography 2016;33:1811-7.  Back to cited text no. 4
Klarich KW, Enriquez-Sarano M, Gura GM, Edwards WD, Tajik AJ, Seward JB, et al. Papillary fibroelastoma: Echocardiographic characteristics for diagnosis and pathologic correlation. J Am Coll Cardiol 1997;30:784-90.  Back to cited text no. 5


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2]


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