Metastatic carcinoid tumor to the heart: echocardiographic-pathologic study of 11 patients

J Am Coll Cardiol. 2002 Oct 2;40(7):1328-32. doi: 10.1016/s0735-1097(02)02109-5.


Objective: We sought to investigate the clinical and echocardiographic (echo) characteristics of metastatic carcinoid tumor in the heart.

Background: Right-sided valvular dysfunction is the hallmark of carcinoid heart disease. Cardiac metastases are uncommon in carcinoid syndrome. Features of patients with metastatic carcinoid tumor involving the heart (MCH) have not been well described.

Methods: From 1985 through 1999, 11 patients (8 male, 3 female), mean age +/- standard deviation, 58 +/- 6 years, were seen who had pathologically confirmed MCH. All patients had echoes, which were reviewed retrospectively.

Results: All patients with MCH had carcinoid syndrome. The primary carcinoid tumor was in the small bowel in 83% of patients, and all patients had hepatic metastases. On pathologic review, the 11 patients had 15 MCH tumors. All metastases were intramyocardial. The MCH involved the right ventricle in 40%, left ventricle in 53%, and ventricular septum in 7%. The average size of macroscopic tumors was 1.8 +/- 1.2 cm. Nine MCH tumors were detected by echo in 6 of the 11 patients (55%). Mean echo-detected tumor size was 2.4 cm (range, 1.2 to 4). All tumors noted by echo were well circumscribed, non-infiltrating, and homogeneous. In the 5 other patients, review of autopsy records revealed 6 macroscopic tumors, mean size 0.35 cm (range, 0.2 to 0.4), none detected by echo even retrospectively. Carcinoid valve disease was present in 8 of the 11 MCH patients. The tricuspid valve was affected in all 8 patients (73%), pulmonary valve in 7 (64%), and left sided valves in 4 (36%) All patients with MCH identified by echo had cardiac surgery, 3 primarily for carcinoid valve disease and 2 for non-carcinoid cardiac disease; in 1 patient, MCH was the primary indication for cardiac surgery.

Conclusions: MCH is uncommon but can be easily identified by echo if tumor size is >/=1.0 cm. In patients without valvular dysfunction, MCH may be the only manifestation of carcinoid heart disease. A search for MCH should be an integral part of the echo exam in patients with carcinoid syndrome.

MeSH terms

  • Age of Onset
  • Autopsy
  • Biopsy
  • Carcinoid Tumor / diagnostic imaging*
  • Carcinoid Tumor / mortality
  • Carcinoid Tumor / pathology*
  • Carcinoid Tumor / secondary
  • Carcinoid Tumor / therapy
  • Echocardiography* / methods
  • Echocardiography* / standards
  • Female
  • Heart Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Heart Neoplasms / mortality
  • Heart Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Heart Neoplasms / secondary
  • Heart Neoplasms / therapy
  • Hemodynamics
  • Humans
  • Hydroxyindoleacetic Acid / urine
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Hydroxyindoleacetic Acid