5 June 2008
New Delhi, India
By Risha Chitlangia
Ajit Kumar Singh from Jharkhand was referred to Safdarjung Hospital some weeks ago. Singh was diagnosed with a tumour in the right atrium of the heart–an extremely rare condition. Due to financial constraints, Singh left it untreated till recently, when he developed a swelling in the neck and lower body. His liver had also enlarged. “I had trouble breathing and had swelling all over my lower body”, said Singh, who is recovering in the cardiac ICU here.
The tumour had covered almost the entire chamber and was exerting pressure on the right ventricle and blocking the inferior vena cava, a large vein which carries de–oxygenated blood from lower half of the body into the heart. As a result, blood stagnated in the lower body. “He also had swelling in the neck and face because his superior vena cava was also affected. The tumour was big and we had no option but to take out 60% of the right atrium”, said Dr. Jagdish Prasad, chief cardio–thoracic surgeon and medical superintendent, Safdarjung Hospital, who operated on Singh.
In a two–hour surgery, the doctors removed the tumour and reconstructed the right atrium with pericardium, which is the outer covering of the heart. “The hollow space had to be filled up. We used the pericardium to make up for the huge space that was created. The danger of pulmonary embolism was high. We had to ensure that no portion of the tumour had slipped into the brain or lungs. We had to stop the patient’s heart to perform the surgery. Such surgeries are very expensive, but we operated on him free of cost”, said Prasad.
According to doctors, a tumour in the heart is a rare condition and occurs only in 0.01% of cardiac cases, out of which most tumours are seen in the left atrium.