Hibernoma: a case report of a rare cardiac tumour

Eur Heart J Case Rep. 2023 Dec 26;8(1):ytad612. doi: 10.1093/ehjcr/ytad612. eCollection 2024 Jan.


Background: A cardiac hibernoma is a rare phenomenon, with just a handful of reports in the literature. They are difficult to characterize with conventional imaging including echocardiography, computed tomography (CT), cardiac magnetic resonance (CMR), or positron emission tomography (PET). Their definitive diagnosis relies primarily on histopathology via either endovascular or surgical biopsy. Previous case reports have entailed surgical excision followed by histopathology; however, surgery may be unfavourable in some patients with increased perioperative risk.

Case summary: We present the case of a 57-year-old woman who was referred to our cardiology service with an interatrial lipomatous mass found incidentally on chest CT for assessment of rib fractures. She had 6 months of unexplained syncope, which was attributed to superior vena cava (SVC) compression demonstrated by chest CT. The mass had benign characteristics on echocardiography, CT, and CMR but was glucose-avid on PET, which indicated a possible malignancy such as liposarcoma. Her comorbid and very significant airways disease precluded her from surgical excision, so instead, endovascular biopsy was performed. Histopathology showed brown fat which was negative for mouse double minute 2 amplification on fluorescence in situ hybridisation testing; hence, a diagnosis was made of hibernoma, a rare benign tumour of brown fat. Given the benign diagnosis and her surgical risk with severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a multidisciplinary recommendation was made favouring conservative management, with careful ongoing follow-up and the consideration of SVC stenting if symptoms progressed.

Discussion: The definitive diagnosis of a cardiac hibernoma is complex and relies heavily on histopathology due to the contradictory findings on chest imaging. Careful consideration of management within a multidisciplinary team setting is essential to achieve a successful outcome.

Keywords: Cardiac biopsy; Cardiac tumour; Case report; Hibernoma; Lipoma.

Publication types

  • Case Reports