Definition | Reasons for Procedure | Possible Complications | What to Expect | Call Your Doctor


Cardiac tumor resection is the removal of a tumor from the heart. The resection will also remove some of the healthy tissue surrounding the tumor.

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

Anatomy of the Heart

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Reasons for Procedure

Tumors can interfere with the surrounding healthy tissue. This can lead to heart failure, blockage of blood flow, problems with the heart valves, or blood clots.

Benign tumors can often be treated successfully with just surgery.

The surgery may be only part of the treatment of cancerous tumors. Treatment for these may also involve chemo- and/or radiation therapy.

Possible Complications

Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:

  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Damage to the heart, lungs, or other organs
  • Excess bleeding
  • Blood clots
  • Adverse reaction to anesthesia such as lightheadedness, low blood pressure, or wheezing
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Infection
  • Soreness in throat

Factors that may increase the risk of problems include:

Talk to your doctor about these risks before the procedure.

What to Expect

  • Your doctor will ask about your family and medical history. You will also have a physical exam and blood tests.
  • An electrocardiogram (EKG) will be done to examine your heart’s electrical activity.
  • Your doctor will also need images of the heart and tumor. These may be taken with:
  • Talk to your doctor about:
    • Any allergies you may have.
    • Any medications, herbs, or supplements you take.
  • You may be asked to stop taking some medications up to one week before the surgery.
  • Know what paperwork you will need to bring with you.
  • Do not eat or drink the night before your surgery.

General anesthesia—you will be asleep during the procedure

A breathing tube will be placed in your throat. Next, an incision will be made on the skin of the chest. A special device will help open the ribs to expose the heart. You will be connected to a heart-lung machine. This machine will take over for the heart and pump blood to your body during surgery. The heart can then be stopped so the surgery can begin.

The tumor and some surrounding tissue will be removed. The doctor will remove as little tissue as possible without leaving tumor tissue behind. Repairs or reconstruction will be done to make sure the heart can still work properly. Once the repairs are complete, the heart lung machine will be removed and your heart will start beating again. Your heart will be observed to make sure it is working properly.

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

About 3-5 hours

Anesthesia will prevent pain during surgery. Pain and discomfort after the procedure can be managed with medications.

You will be in the hospital for several days. The exact length of stay will depend on your surgery and recovery rate.

The first part of recovery will occur in an intensive care or coronary care unit. There will be several tubes and wires attached to you so your vital signs can be monitored.

You will be given IV fluids initially. You will gradually start with liquids, then progress to your regular diet.

The hospital staff may ask you to:

  • Move around in bed. It will help circulate the blood.
  • Increase your activity level each day.
  • Take deep breaths and cough. This will help keep your lungs clear.
  • Wear elastic stockings to promote blood circulation.

To help your recovery once you get home:

  • Follow instructions on caring for the wound to prevent infection
  • Track your temperature and weight as directed
  • Avoid lifting, pushing, or pulling anything weighing more than 10 pounds
  • Have someone help you around the house

Call Your Doctor

Contact your doctor if your recovery is not progressing as expected or you develop complications, such as:

  • Pain that cannot be controlled with the medications you've been given
  • Leg swelling
  • Fever
  • Symptoms of depression that last 2 weeks
  • Lightheadedness that leads to fainting

Call for emergency medical services right away for:

Signs of a heart attack:

  • Squeezing sensation or pressure in the chest
  • Radiating pain in one or both arms, neck, back, or jaw
  • Shortness of breath
  • Lightheadedness
  • Nausea

Signs of a stroke:

  • Drooping or numbness in the face
  • Arm weakness
  • Difficulty speaking

If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.