Pericardial malignant mesothelioma: a latent complication of radiotherapy?

European Journal of Cardiothoracic Surgery. 2008 Feb 13 [Epub ahead of print] [Link]

Small GR, Nicolson M, Buchan K, Broadhurst P.

Department of Cardiology, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, Scotland AB25 2ZN, United Kingdom.


Pericardial diseases can be difficult to differentiate from myocardial conditions. Diagnosis can be challenging and often requires the use of different imaging modalities. Here, we describe a case which presented with common cardiac symptoms which were shown to be the result of a rare condition. A 62-year-old lady presented with left femoral artery embolism. Post-embolectomy she developed cardiac failure. Three months previously an acellular, sterile pericardial effusion had been drained. In 1993 a left mastectomy and axillary node clearance was performed for breast cancer. Adjuvant chemotherapy and radiotherapy were administered. Examination revealed a raised jugular venous pressure (JVP) with rapid Y descent and Kussmaul’s sign. CT chest and abdomen found no recurrence of breast carcinoma. Cardiac MRI demonstrated thickened pericardium. At cardiac catheterisation haemodynamic responses consistent with constrictive pericarditis were seen. Pericardectomy was performed. Histology revealed pericardial epithelioid malignant mesothelioma. 18-FDG-PET CT post-operatively was negative in the pericardium and pleura. Chemotherapy with pemetrexed and carboplatin was given. The patient died 9 months after presentation. Radiotherapy and asbestos exposure are both associated with pericardial mesothelioma and the aetiology in this case was not clear. The condition carries a poor prognosis and is invariable fatal although newer chemotherapeutic regimens have prolonged survival times.

Keywords: Pericardium; Mesothelioma; Radiotherapy