Objectives: The hypothesis was that cardiac surgery for symptomatic carcinoid heart disease in conjunction with adjunctive therapy could improve the long-term outlook of patients with carcinoid heart disease.
Background: Patients with carcinoid heart disease have a dismal prognosis; most die of progressive right heart failure within 1 year after onset of symptoms. Improved therapies for the systemic manifestations of the carcinoid syndrome have resulted in symptomatic improvement and prolonged survival in patients without heart disease.
Methods: Twenty-six patients with symptomatic carcinoid heart disease underwent valvular surgery. Preoperative clinical, laboratory, Doppler echocardiographic and hemodynamic factors were evaluated. The survival of the surgical group was compared with that of a control group of 40 medically treated patients.
Results: There were nine perioperative deaths (35%), primarily from postoperative bleeding and right ventricular failure. Of the 17 surgical survivors, 8 were alive at a mean of 28 months of follow-up. The postoperative functional class of the eight surviving patients was substantially improved. Late deaths were primarily due to hepatic dysfunction caused by metastatic disease. The only predictor of operative mortality (p = 0.03) was low voltage on preoperative electrocardiography (limb lead voltage < or = 5 mm). Predictors of late survival included a lower preoperative somatostatin requirement and a lower preoperative urinary 5-hydroxy-indoleacetic acid level. There was a trend toward increased survival for the surgical group compared with the control group.
Conclusions: Because new therapies have improved survival in patients with the malignant carcinoid syndrome, cardiac involvement has become a major cause of morbidity and mortality. Valve surgery is the only definitive treatment. Although cardiac surgery carries a high perioperative mortality, marked symptomatic improvement occurs in survivors. Surgical intervention should therefore be considered when cardiac symptoms become severe.