Despite being the most common benign intracardiac tumour with an excellent prognosis after surgical excision the incidence of atrial myxoma (except at autopsy) is unknown. We reviewed all patients admitted to the National Cardiac Surgery Unit (n = 26) with an atrial myxoma over a fifteen year period (1977-1991) to compile national incidence data and assess pre-operative diagnosis, management, surgical technique, and outcome. Preoperative symptoms were: congestive cardiac failure (12 patients), embolism (8 patients), constitutional (3 patients), asymptomatic (2 patients) and tachyarrhythmia (1 patient). The diagnosis was confirmed by 2D echocardiography alone in thirteen patients and by a combination of echocardiography and angiography in thirteen patients. At operation the site of the tumour was left atrial in 24 patients and bi-atrial in two patients. All cases were confirmed by histology. All patients made a good post-operative recovery, although one patient survived a pulmonary embolus and one patient developed a deep venous thrombosis. There has been one late death (five months after surgery) from a cerebrovascular accident. Serial echocardiography has revealed one recurrence to date (8 years after surgery). The surgical incidence of these tumours in the Republic of Ireland over the study period was 0.5 atrial myxomas/million population/year. Although rare atrial myxomas are the most important cardiac tumours to diagnose as the results from surgery are excellent.