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Diana Rufaro Jaravaza, Usha Lalla, Stefan Dan Zaharie, Louis Johann de Jager
(Division of Anatomical Pathology, Stellenbosch University, National Health Laboratory Service, Tygerberg Hospital, Cape Town, South Africa)
Am J Case Rep 2021; 22:e931437
Although rare, atrial myxoma is the most common benign cardiac tumor. The recognized triad of presenting symptoms relates to constitutional, embolic, and obstructive effects produced by the tumor. However, the presentation may be non-specific and mimic other diseases, confounding diagnosis.
CASE REPORT: A middle-aged woman presented with wheezing and shortness of breath. With a strong background smoking history, the initial impression was that of acute bronchospasm. She however deteriorated rapidly, with decreased consciousness and cardiac arrest requiring resuscitation. Despite intensive care management, she died within 1 day of admission. Autopsy revealed a previously undiagnosed left atrial myxoma with coronary and systemic embolization.
CONCLUSIONS: This case highlights an unusual presentation of atrial myxoma, resulting in fatal simultaneous embolization to the coronary and cerebral arteries. This simultaneous embolic presentation is not common, but the potential consequences are serious. This report also demonstrates that the presentation of a left-sided atrial myxoma with cardiac asthma can mimic respiratory disease and confound diagnosis. In adult patients without a history of chronic respiratory disease, the possibility of cardiac asthma should always be entertained. Furthermore, the importance of considering atrial myxoma as a cause for cardiac asthma is emphasized. The use of transthoracic echocardiogram in aiding the rapid diagnosis of atrial myxoma is recommended. Finally, the continued acknowledgement of the important contribution the academic autopsy makes in complementing and improving clinical practice remains imperative.