Primary pericardial tumors

Radiographics. 2013 Oct;33(6):1613-30. doi: 10.1148/rg.336135512.


Primary pericardial tumors are rare and may be classified as benign or malignant. The most common benign lesions are pericardial cysts and lipomas. Mesothelioma is the most common primary malignant pericardial neoplasm. Other malignant tumors include a wide variety of sarcomas, lymphoma, and primitive neuroectodermal tumor. When present, signs and symptoms are generally nonspecific. Patients often present with dyspnea, chest pain, palpitations, fever, or weight loss. Although the imaging approach usually begins with plain radiography of the chest or transthoracic echocardiography, the value of these imaging modalities is limited. Cross-sectional imaging, on the other hand, plays a key role in the evaluation of these lesions. Computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging allow further characterization and may, in some cases, provide diagnostic findings. Furthermore, the importance of cross-sectional imaging lies in assessing the exact location of the tumor in relation to neighboring structures. Both benign and malignant tumors may result in compression of vital mediastinal structures. Malignant lesions may also directly invade structures, such as the myocardium and great vessels, and result in metastatic disease. Imaging plays an important role in the detection, characterization, and staging of pericardial tumors; in their treatment planning; and in the posttreatment follow-up of affected patients. The prognosis of patients with benign tumors is good, even in the few cases in which surgical intervention is required. On the other hand, the length of survival for patients with malignant pericardial tumors is, in the majority of cases, dismal.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Contrast Media
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Diagnostic Imaging*
  • Female
  • Fetal Diseases / diagnosis
  • Fetal Diseases / pathology
  • Heart Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Heart Neoplasms / pathology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pericardium / pathology*
  • Pregnancy


  • Contrast Media