Right Anterolateral Thoracotomy Versus Sternotomy for Resection of Benign Atrial Masses: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Innovations (Phila). 2021 Sep-Oct;16(5):426-433. doi: 10.1177/15569845211032230. Epub 2021 Aug 1.


Objective: Primary benign cardiac tumors are rare disease entity that predominantly originate from the atria. Benign masses can induce heart failure, arrhythmia, or thromboembolic events. Therefore, surgical excision is often indicated. Current guidelines on the preferred approaches for resection (i.e., median sternotomy [MST] or right anterolateral thoracotomy [RAT]) are lacking. The aim of the current meta-analysis was to evaluate all studies comparing RAT to MST for excision of benign atrial masses in terms of safety, efficacy, and complications.

Methods: The PubMed and EMBASE databases were searched through 9 June 2020. Data regarding mortality, complications, recurrence, ICU stay, and length of hospital stay were extracted and submitted to meta-analysis using random effects modelling. Heterogeneity was assessed by the I 2 test.

Results: Four retrospective observational studies were included, including 196 patients (RAT n = 97, MST n = 99). Mortality was 0% in both groups. Recurrence was <1% in the RAT group and 0% in the MST group. Complication rate tended to be lower in favor of the RAT group. Furthermore, RAT was associated with lower length of ICU stay (-17.7 hr, P = 0.01) and hospital stay (-4.0 days, P < 0.001). No significant differences in cardiopulmonary bypass (P = 0.09) and cross-clamp times (P = 0.15) were observed.

Conclusions: The RAT approach is as safe and effective as MST for the excision of benign atrial masses. Moreover, RAT is associated with a reduced complication rate and a reduced duration of hospitalization and could be considered as the preferred approach in anatomically suitable patients.

Keywords: benign atrial mass; cardiac surgery; meta-analysis.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Heart Neoplasms* / surgery
  • Humans
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sternotomy*
  • Thoracotomy
  • Treatment Outcome