Rhabdomyomas and Tuberous sclerosis complex: our experience in 33 cases

  • Pietro Sciacca1Email author,

    Affiliated with

    • Valentina Giacchi2,

      Affiliated with

      • Carmine Mattia3,

        Affiliated with

        • Filippo Greco2,

          Affiliated with

          • Pierluigi Smilari2,

            Affiliated with

            • Pasqua Betta3 and

              Affiliated with

              • Giuseppe Distefano1

                Affiliated with

                BMC Cardiovascular Disorders201414:66

                DOI: 10.1186/1471-2261-14-66

                Received: 20 October 2013

                Accepted: 25 April 2014

                Published: 9 May 2014

                Abstract

                Background

                Rhabdomyomas are the most common type of cardiac tumors in children. Anatomically, they can be considered as hamartomas. They are usually randomly diagnosed antenatally or postnatally sometimes presenting in the neonatal period with haemodynamic compromise or severe arrhythmias although most neonatal cases remain asymptomatic. Typically rhabdomyomas are multiple lesions and usually regress spontaneously but are often associated with tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC), an autosomal dominant multisystem disorder caused by mutations in either of the two genes, TSC1 or TSC2. Diagnosis of tuberous sclerosis is usually made on clinical grounds and eventually confirmed by a genetic test by searching for TSC genes mutations.

                Methods

                We report our experience on 33 cases affected with rhabdomyomas and diagnosed from January 1989 to December 2012, focusing on the cardiac outcome and on association with the signs of tuberous sclerosis complex. We performed echocardiography using initially a Philips Sonos 2500 with a 7,5/5 probe and in the last 4 years a Philips IE33 with a S12-4 probe. We investigated the family history, brain, skin, kidney and retinal lesions, development of seizures, and neuropsychiatric disorders.

                Results

                At diagnosis we detected 205 masses, mostly localized in interventricular septum, right ventricle and left ventricle. Only in 4 babies (12%) the presence of a mass caused a significant obstruction. A baby, with an enormous septal rhabdomyoma associated to multiple rhabdomyomas in both right and left ventricular walls died just after birth due to severe heart failure. During follow-up we observed a reduction of rhabdomyomas in terms of both number and size in all 32 surviving patients except in one child. Eight patients (24,2%) had an arrhythmia and in 2 of these cases rhabdomyomas led to Wolf-Parkinson-White Syndrome. For all patients the arrhythmia spontaneously totally disappeared or was reduced gradually. With regarding to association with tuberous sclerosis, we diagnosed tuberous sclerosis clinically in 31 babies (93,9%).

                Conclusion

                Rhabdobyomas are tumors with favorable prognosis because they frequently do not cause symptoms and they often regress in numbers and size. Nevertheless, due to frequent association with tuberous sclerosis complex and the resulting neurological impairment, the prognosis can result unfavorable.

                Keywords

                Cardiac masses Rhabdomyomas Tuberous sclerosis complex Echocardiography

                Background

                Rhabdomyomas are the most frequent cardiac tumors in children followed by fibromas (25% to 30%) [1, 2] and less commonly by myxoma, lipoma, teratoma, hemangioma, mesothelioma and Purkinje cell tumour. They are often associated to tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) [3]. This is an autosomal dominant neurocutaneous disorder that can affect every organ of the body, most commonly the brain, kidney, heart, and lungs [4]. We report our experience with regard to 33 patients with multiple cardiac rhabdmiomata masses, focusing on cardiac outcome and on the association with tuberous sclerosis complex.

                Methods

                From January 1989 to December 2012 in the Pediatric Cardiology Unit of University of Catania echocardiography was performed in 14238 patients below twelve months of age using initially a Philips Sonos 2500 with a 7,5/5 probe and in the last 4 years a Philips IE33 with a S12-4 probe.

                Every patient if of age, or at least one parent or legal guardian if underage, gave their written informed consent before the patient’s inclusion in the study. The study was conducted in accordance with the Helsinki Declaration, and the study protocol was approved by the (local) Ethics Committee of the Medical University of Catania.

                Rhabdomyomas were identified in 33 cases (0,23%). We identified all these patients (Table  1) from the database of our Department of Pediatrics. Clinical features of postnatal examinations were documented from pediatric records and echocardiographic images reviewed from the computer database. Data included age at diagnosis, clinical presentation, physical examination findings (cyanosis, heart murmur, arrhythmia, heart failure), electrocardiogram (ECG), 24-hour ECG recording results, initial and last echocardiography findings (number of rhabdomyomas, location, presence of inflow or outflow tract obstruction, myocardial dysfunction), indication for surgery, outcome (partial or total regression, residual tumors), and follow-up period.
                Table 1

                Clinical presentation – first cardiac medical examination

                Case n°

                Age at diagnosis

                Clinical signs at first examination

                ECG and Holter-ECG

                Echocardiography at diagnosis

                Cardiac surgery

                1

                2 months

                Arrhythmia

                Atrial and ventricular ectopic beats

                Multiple rhabdomyomas

                No

                WPW Syndrome

                2

                1 month

                Heart murmur

                Normal

                Multiple rhabdomyomas

                No

                3

                2 months

                Heart murmur

                Widened QRS

                Multiple rhabdomyomas

                No

                4

                Fetal

                No symptoms but RVOT obstruction

                Normal

                Multiple rhabdomyomas

                No

                5

                1 day

                Heart murmur

                Normal

                Multiple rhabdomyomas

                No

                LV obstruction

                6

                1 day

                Heart murmur

                Normal

                Multiple rhabdomyomas

                No

                7

                Fetal

                No symptoms

                RV hypertrophy

                Lobulated mass in LV

                No

                8

                Fetal

                No symptoms

                Normal

                Multiple rhabdomyomas

                No

                9

                1 month

                Heart murmur

                RV hypertrophy

                Lobulated mass in IVS

                No

                10

                1 day

                Cyanosis

                Atrial and ventricular ectopic beats

                Multiple rhabdomyomas

                No

                LV obstrution

                11

                2 months

                No symptoms

                Atrial ectopic beats

                Multiple rhabdomyomas

                No

                12

                1 months

                No symptoms

                RV overload signs

                Multiple rhabdomyomas

                No

                13

                Fetal

                Heart failure Cyanosis

                Atrial and ventricular ectopic beats

                Multiple rhabdomyomas

                Yes

                14

                1 day

                Heart murmur

                Normal

                Multiple rhabdomyomas

                No

                15

                7 months

                Heart murmur

                Atrial and ventricular ectopic beats

                Multiple rhabdomyomas

                No

                WPW Syndrome

                16

                1 day

                No symptoms

                Incomplete right bundle branch block

                Multiple rhabdomyomas

                No

                17

                9 months

                Heart murmur

                Normal

                Multiple rhabdomyomas

                No

                18

                1 day

                Arhythmia

                Atrial and ventricular ectopic beats

                Multiple rhabdomyomas

                No

                19

                Fetal

                No symptoms (hypokinesia)

                Normal

                Multiple rhabdomyomas

                No

                20

                4 months

                Heart murmur

                Ventricular ectopic beats and RV overload signs

                Multiple rhabdomyomas

                No

                21

                Fetal

                No symptoms

                WPW Syndrome

                Multiple rhabdomyomas

                No

                IVS overload signs

                22

                3 days

                Heart murmur

                Normal

                Multiple rhabdomyomas

                No

                23

                11 months

                No symptoms

                RV overload signs

                Multiple rhabdomyomas

                No

                24

                5 months

                No symptoms

                Atrial and ventricular ectopic beats

                Multiple rhabdomyomas

                No

                25

                1 day

                Heart murmur

                Normal

                Multiple rhabdomyomas

                No

                26

                9 months

                Seizures

                Normal

                Multiple rhabdomyomas

                No

                27

                Fetal

                No symptoms

                Normal

                Multiple rhabdomyomas

                No

                28

                2 months

                No symptoms

                Normal

                Multiple rhabdomyomas

                No

                29

                Fetal

                No symptoms

                RV overload signs

                Multiple rhabdomyomas

                No

                30

                Fetal

                Heart murmur

                Normal

                Multiple rhabdomyomas

                No

                31

                7 days

                Heart murmur

                Normal

                Multiple rhabdomyomas

                No

                32

                21 days

                No symptoms

                RV hypertrophy

                Multiple rhabdomyomas

                No

                33

                Fetal

                Heart murmur

                Ventricular ectopic beats

                Multiple rhabdomyomas

                No

                Thirty one infants with diagnosis of Tuberous Sclerosis Complex were identified among those who were initially diagnosed having cardiac rhabdomyomas.

                We assessed cerebral lesions and development of neurological and skin signs, and eventually kidney and eye involvement in all patients affected by tuberous sclerosis (Table  2). Diagnosis of TSC was based on clinical criteria established in 1998 by the US Tuberous Sclerosis Complex Association [5]. Genetic test for TSC is available on 3 patients (9%) and all are positive.
                Table 2

                General clinical presentation – heart, brain, skin, eye and kidney involvement - and family history

                Case n°

                Cardiac signs

                Neurological signs

                MRI

                Skin lesions

                Others

                Family history

                1

                WPW Syndrome

                West Syndrome

                Cortical tubers

                Hypomelanotic maculae

                Retinal hamartoma Renal angiomyolipoma

                Negative

                Multiple rhabdomyomas

                Facial angiofibroma

                2

                Heart murmur

                West syndrome

                Cortical tubers

                Hypomelanotic maculae

                No

                Sister with language disorders

                Multiple rhabdomyomas

                Psychomotor delay

                Facial angiofibroma

                3

                Heart murmur

                No

                Cerebral white matter radial migration lines

                Hypomelanotic maculae

                Retinal hamartoma

                Positive for TSC

                Widened QRS

                Multiple rhabdomyomas

                4

                Multiple rhabdomyomas

                West Syndrome

                Cortical tubers

                Hypomelanotic maculae

                Retinal hamartoma

                Negative

                Mental retardation

                5

                Heart murmur

                No

                Normal

                No

                No

                Negative

                Cyanosis

                Multiple rhabdomyomas

                6

                Heart murmur

                West syndrome

                Cortical tubers

                Hypomelanotic maculae

                Retinal hamartoma

                Negative

                Multiple rhabdomyomas

                Drug resistant epilepsy

                Subependymal nodules

                Facial angiofibroma

                Psychomotor delay

                Cerebral white matter radial migration lines

                Forehead plaque

                7

                Lobulated mass in LV

                West Syndrome

                Not performed

                Hypomelanotic maculae

                No

                Negative

                8

                Multiple rhabdomyomas

                Partial seizures

                Cortical tubers

                Hypomelanotic maculae

                Retinal hamartoma

                Positive

                Lennox-Gastaut syndrome

                Subependymal nodules

                Facial angiofibroma

                Mental retardation

                Subependymal giant cell astrocytoma

                Behavior disorders

                9

                Lobulated mass in IVS

                No

                Not performed

                Hypomelanotic maculae

                No

                Negative

                10

                Cyanosis

                No

                Not performed

                No

                No

                Positive for TSC

                LV obstruction

                Multiple rhabdomyomas

                11

                Atrial ectopic beats

                West syndrome

                Cortical tubers

                Hypomelanotic maculae

                Renal cysts

                Negative

                Subependymal nodules

                Multiple rhabdomyomas

                Cerebral white matter radial migration lines

                12

                RV overload signs

                West Syndrome

                Cortical tubers

                Hypomelanotic maculae

                No

                Negative

                Multiple rhabdomyomas

                Facial angiofibroma

                13

                Heart failure and cyanosis

                West syndrome

                Subependymal nodules

                Hypomelanotic maculae

                No

                Negative

                Atrial and ventricular ectopic beats

                Behavior disorders

                Subependymal giant cell astrocytoma Cerebral white matter radial migration lines

                Multiple rhabdomyomas

                Psychomotor delay

                14

                Heart murmur

                Drug resistant epilepsy

                Cortical tubers

                Hypomelanotic maculae

                No

                Negative

                Multiple thabdomyomas

                Mental retardation

                Subependymal nodule

                15

                Heart murmur

                West syndrome

                Cortical tubers

                Hypomelanotic maculae

                Retinal hamartoma, Renal angiomyolipoma

                Mother with hypomel. macula

                WPW Syndrome

                Behavior and language disorders

                Subependymal nodule

                Facial angiofibroma

                Multiple rhabdomyomas

                 

                Cerebral white matter radial migration lines

                16

                Incomplete right bundle branch block

                Partial seizures

                Cortical tubers

                Hypomelanotic maculae

                No

                Negative

                Subependymal nodule

                Multiple rhabdomyomas

                17

                Heart murmur

                Partial seizures

                Cortical tubers

                Hypomelanotic maculae

                No

                Positive

                Multiple rhabdomyomas

                Lennox-Gastaut syndrome

                Facial angiofibroma

                Mental retardation

                18

                Atrial and ventricular ectopic beats

                West Syndrome

                Cortical tubers

                Hypomelanotic maculae

                Renal angiomyolipoma

                Negative

                Multiple rhabdomyomas

                Facial angiofibroma

                Forehead plaque

                19

                Multiple rhabdomyomas

                Partial seizures

                Cortical tubers

                Hypomelanotic maculae

                Retinal hamartoma renal angiomyolipoma

                Positive

                Subependymal nodules

                Facial angiofibroma

                Cerebral white matter radial migration lines

                20

                Heart murmur

                West syndrome

                Cortical tubers

                Hypomelanotic maculae

                Renal cysts

                Positive

                Ventricular ectopic beats

                Psychomotor delay

                Subependymal nodule

                RV overload signs

                Subependymal giant cell astrocytoma

                Multiple rhabdomyomas

                21

                WPW Syndrome

                Partial seizures

                Cortical tubers

                Hypomelanotic maculae

                no

                Negative

                Multiple rhabdomyomas

                Behavior disorders

                Subependymal nodule

                22

                Heart murmur

                No

                Cerebral white matter radial migration lines

                Hypomelanotic maculae

                no

                Negative

                Multiple rhabdomyomas

                23

                RV overload signs

                Drug resistant epilepsy

                Cerebral white matter radial migration lines

                Hypomelanotic maculae

                Retinal hamartoma

                Negative

                Multiple rhabdomyomas

                Mental retardation

                Facial angiofibroma

                Forehead plaque

                24

                Atrial and ventricular ectopic beats

                West syndrome

                Cortical tubers

                Hypomelanotic maculae

                No

                Negative

                Multiple rhabdomyomas

                Psychomotor delay

                Subependymal nodules

                25

                Heart murmur

                No

                Cortical tubers

                Hypomelanotic maculae

                no

                Negative

                Multiple rhabdomyomas

                26

                Multiple rhabdomyomas

                West syndrome

                Cortical tubers

                Hypomelanotic maculae Forehead plaque

                Retinal hamartoma

                Negative

                Subependymal nodules

                Subependymal giant cell astrocytoma

                27

                Multiple rhabdomyomas

                West syndrome

                Cortical tubers

                Hypomelanotic maculae

                Retinal hamartoma

                Negative

                Drug resistant epilepsy

                Subependymal nodules

                Facial angiofibroma

                Mental retardation

                Forehead plaque

                28

                Multiple rhabdomyomas

                West syndrome

                Cortical tubers

                Hypomelanotic maculae

                Retinal hamartoma

                Negative

                Behavior disorders

                Subependymal nodules

                Facial angiofibroma

                Cerebral white matter radial migration lines

                29

                Multiple rhabdomyomas

                No

                Cortical tubers

                Hypomelanotic maculae

                No

                Positive

                30

                Multiple rhabdomyomas

                West Syndrome

                Cortical tubers

                Hypomelanotic maculae

                No

                Positive for TSC

                Cerebral white matter radial migration lines

                31

                Heart murmur

                Drug resistant epilepsy

                Cortical tubers

                Hypomelanotic maculae

                Retinal hamartoma

                Negative

                Multiple rhabdomyomas

                Mental retardation

                Subependymal nodules

                Renal angiomyolipoma

                32

                Multiple rhabdomyomas

                West Syndrome

                Cortical tubers

                Hypomelanotic maculae

                No

                Negative

                Mental retardation

                Subependymal nodules

                Facial angiofibroma

                Cerebral white matter radial migration lines

                33

                Heart murmur

                Lennox-Gastaut syndrome

                Cortical tubers

                Hypomelanotic maculae

                Retinal hamartoma

                Negative

                Multiple rhabdomyomas

                Mental retardation

                Subependymal nodules

                Facial angiofibroma

                Cerebral white matter radial migration lines

                Forehead plaque

                Follow-up consisted of clinical case review as well as records of investigationswas: subsequent to the diagnosis, all babies were subjected to at least 18 months cardiac follow-up with ECG, color Doppler echocardiography and Holter-ECG every six months. Regarding TSC, under the supervision of a pediatric neurologist, we performed skin and ophthalmological examinations, abdomen ultrasound examination, assessment of occurrence of seizures, brain MRI, aimed at highlighting the typical lesions of tuberous sclerosis complex, and evaluation of mental retardation, psychomotor delay or behavioral and language disorders (the follow-up was between six months and ten years).

                Results

                At diagnosis we detected 205 masses: 6 (2,9%) in right atrium, 1 (0,5%) in left atrium, 4 (1,9%) close to valves, 16 (7,8%) in the right infundibulum, 75 (36,6%) in interventricular septum, 45 (22%) in right ventricular wall, 58 (28,3%) in left ventricular wall. In 10 cases (30,3%) rhabdomyomas had been detected antenatally with fetal echocardiography and confirmed at birth. For the other patients, the indications to perform the first echocardiographic assessment were arrhythmias, such as, atrial and/or ventricular ectopic beats in 2 cases (6,1%), in 1 case (3%) the appearance of seizures as infantile spasms, in 2 cases (6,1%) occurrence of cyanosis, in 11 (33,3%) cases presence of a heart murmur, whereas 7 cases (21,2%) were found during routine screening. The mean age in postnatally diagnosed patients was 74,6 days. In 31 patients (94%) we detected multiple masses that led us to define these as rhabdomyomas. Only in 2 patients (6,1%) we observed a single cardiac mass, one intramural in the interventricular septum and one protruding in right ventricular cavity respectively. Of these two, TSC was diagnosed only in one.

                In 4 babies (12%) the presence of a mass caused a significant obstruction and/or clinical signs of heart failure and/or cyanosis due to right or left ventricular outflow tract obstruction. Among these 4, in a newborn (3%), with a diagnosis of cardiac masses in the fetal period, surgery to remove the mass was carried out because of severe signs of heart failure and cyanotic spells; a newborn (3%), with antenatal diagnosis of an enormous septal rhabdomyoma associated to multiple rabdomyomas in both right and left ventricular wall, died soon after birth, due to a severe heart failure; whereas in the other 2 patients, with left and right ventricular obstruction respectively, obstructing rhabdomyomas decreased in terms of size without need of medication. Moreover, in another patient (3%) echocardiography revealed only slight hypokinesia without need for medical or surgical therapy. The other 28 patients (85%) did not show signs of hemodynamic impairment.

                During follow-up we observed a reduction of rhabdomyomas in terms of both number and size in all 32 surviving patients except in one child. We detected 102 masses: 2 (2%) in right atrium, none (0%) in left atrium, 2 (2%) near the valves, 6 (5,8%) in the infundibulum, 40 (39,2%) in interventricular septum, 25 (24,5%) in right ventricular wall, 27 (26,5%) in left ventricular wall. In 8 cases (24,2%) we found atrial and/or ventricular ectopic beats and in 2 of these cases rhabdomyomas led to Wolf-Parkinson-White Syndrome. For all patients, drug treatment was not believed necessary and the arrhythmia spontaneously healed or was gradually reduced.

                With regarding to association with tuberous sclerosis (Table  2), we diagnosed tuberous sclerosis clinically in 31 babies (93,9%) and confirmed diagnosis in 3 patients (9%) by genetic tests. Familial history of the disease was positive in 8 cases (24,2%).

                MRI of brain was performed in 30 children and revealed the characteristic lesions of tuberous sclerosis in 29 (96,6%): cortical tubers in 24 patients (80%), subependymal nodules in 16 (53,3%), subependymal giant cell astrocytoma in 4 (13,3%) and cerebral white matter radial migration lines in 12 (40%). Often two or more lesions coexisted in the same patients.

                Of 31 affected, 25 (80,6%) developed seizures during follow-up and we cannot exclude symptoms in the future for the remaining. In particular, West Syndrome was present in 16 children (54,3%), Lennox-Gastaut in 3 (9,6%), partial seizures in 5 (16,1%) and drug resistant epilepsy in 5 (16,1%). Moreover mental retardation was present in 9 (29%), psychomotor delay in 5 (16,1%), behavior disorders in 5 (16,1%) and language disorders in 1 (3,2%).

                With regrads to skin lesions, we noticed hypomelanotic macules in all 31 patients with tuberous sclerosis (100%), facial angiofibroma in 14 (45,1%) and forehead plaque in 6 (19,3%). Concerning the involvement of other organs, we detected retinal hamartoma in 13 (41,9%), renal angiomyolipoma in 5 (16,1%) and renal cysts in 2 (6,4%).

                Discussion

                Cardiac tumours are extremely rare in children (0.027 to 0.17%) [6]. More than one-half of pediatric cardiac tumors are diagnosed within the twelve months of life and are diagnosed both in prenatal and postnatal period [7]. The vast majority of primary cardiac tumours in children are benign, whilst approximately 10% are malignant [8].

                Rhabdomyomas are the most common cardiac tumours in children (45%) [9, 10].

                Echocardiography has been estabilished as the primary diagnostic tool for the evaluation of cardiac tumors in children [11]. Rhabdomyomas appear on ultrasound as round, homogeneous, hyperechogenic, intramural or intracavitary masses, sometimes multiple [12], predominantly localized within the ventricles but can be observed in the atria or caval veins and may lead to obstruction of cardiac valves or inflow/outflow tracts. They are typically asymptomatic but may also cause atrial or ventricular arrhythmias, sinus node dysfunction, heart block and pre-excitation [2, 9]. Surgical resection is not usually considered unless they cause severe intractable arrhythmias, valvular obstruction, or congestive heart failure [13]. In any case they are often difficult to remove completely, because they are usually located deep in the myocardium [14].

                In our patients rhabdomyomas were mostly placed in the ventricles (94%), but also in the right atrium (2,9%), left atrium (0,5%) and/or valves (1,9%). Most masses led only to a heart murmur (33,3%) or were identified incidentally (21,2%) during echocardiography, but also were referred rarely due to cyanosis (6,1%) or arrhythmias (24,2%) that totally disappeared or gradually decreased over time. Only one case with signs of heart failure was subjected to surgical resection with good results. Nevertheless, another baby, with severe left ventricular outflow obstruction due to a giant septal rhabdomyomas (Figures  1, 2, 3), died soon after birth.
                http://static-content.springer.com/image/art%3A10.1186%2F1471-2261-14-66/MediaObjects/12872_2013_718_Fig1_HTML.jpg
                Figure 1

                Giant fetal rhabdomyoma.

                http://static-content.springer.com/image/art%3A10.1186%2F1471-2261-14-66/MediaObjects/12872_2013_718_Fig2_HTML.jpg
                Figure 2

                Giant rhabdomyoma in left ventricle.

                http://static-content.springer.com/image/art%3A10.1186%2F1471-2261-14-66/MediaObjects/12872_2013_718_Fig3_HTML.jpg
                Figure 3

                Giant rhabdomyoma – long axis.

                Congenital cardiac rhabdomyomas represent a condition of particular interest for the researcher due to spontaneous regression of the tumours that occurs in more than one-half of cases [7].

                Jozwiak et al. reported that partial resolution of the cardiac rhabdomyomas was reported in 50% of cases and complete regression in 18% and added that these tumors have been reported to grow or to appear de novo in 4% of patients with tuberous sclerosis [15]. Smith et al. showed similar data: regression rates of 60% in preadolescent tuberous sclerosis patients and 18% in adult tuberous sclerosis patients [16, 17].

                In our experience we noticed involution of rhabdomyomas in all cases with reduction of number and size, with a decrease of all masses in 51,3%, confirming indirectly the histological observations that these lesions regress.

                To explain the involution tendency we refer to pathological anatomy: tumours consist of pathognomonic spider cells with centrally placed cytoplasm containing the nucleus and myofibrils radiating to the cell wall [18]. These tumours that seem to originate from embryonic myocytes, represent hamartomas of striated muscular fibers occurring solely in the heart [14].

                Immunohistochemical immunoreactivity with ubiquitin, associated with the degradation of myoflaments, progression of cytoplasmic vacuolization, enlargement of glycogen vacuoles, apoptosis and myxoid degeneration are the events providing a plausible explanation for the spontaneous regression of rhabdomyoma [17]. In other words, the involution may be related to the inability of the tumours to divide while the heart chambers grow [19] and this consideration may indicate that some still incompletely identified factors, involved in homeostatic regulation of cardiac biology, could lead to regression of the masses. Infact, after birth, rhabdomyoma cells lose their ability to divide and regression of the tumour in infancy is an expected outcome, regardless of size of the tumour [2022]. Complete resolution of more than 80% of the tumours may occur during early childhood [23]. Regression may leave a scarred thin chamber wall [7].

                The outcome of antenatally detected cardiac rhabdomyomas is also favorable. Once fetal somatic growth is completed, hamartomas lose their mitotic potential and undergo apoptosis [24]. The majority of tumours will regress towards the end of the third trimester although rarely some may continue to grow larger. Despite the expected shrinkage of these tumours, unexpected fetal loss may occur due to arrhythmias or obstruction of blood flow [2022].

                Rhabdomyomas can be sporadic but [2, 9] in many cases they are associated with tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) [25]. This is an inherited multiorgan disease with birth incidence of approximately 1 per 5,000 to 10,000 live births. It is an autosomal dominant neurocutaneous disorder characterized by tumor-like malformations that involve many organ systems, including the brain, heart, kidneys and skin [26].

                However, in up to 60% of cases, the disease is related to de novo mutations [27].

                It is caused by mutations in either of the two genes, TSC1 or TSC2, which code for the proteins hamartin (chromosome 9q34) and tuberin (chromosome 16p13), respectively, that act as tumour-growth suppressors [28]. Hamartin and tuberin form a complex that activates the GTPase-activating protein Rheb to inhibit the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR). mTOR is a highly specific protein kinase that regulates protein synthesis, cellular metabolism, differentiation, growth, and migration. Constitutive activation of mTOR results in the abnormal cellular proliferation and differentiation responsible for the multiple hamartomatous growths throughout the central nervous system, lungs, heart, kidneys, eyes and skin [29].

                In our experience rhabdomyomas were associated with tuberous sclerosis in a high number of cases (93,9%) and we found a familial history positive for tuberous sclerosis in about a quarter of cases (25,8%).

                Our data mostly conform with the literature in that rhabdomyomas are strong predictors of TSC both when prenatally but especially when postnatally diagnosed [12, 30, 31].

                It is reported that 60-80% of children affected by tuberous sclerosis have cardiac rhabdomyomas, whereas these tumors can be found in only around 20% of adults with tuberous sclerosis [19].

                In our series almost all children had multiple rhabdomyomas (Figures  4 and 5) with diagnosis of TSC (96,7%). Although the association of multiple cardiac rhabdomyomas with tuberous sclerosis has long been recognized, the association with a single rhabdomyoma is not clear. However, in case of a solitary tumour a careful examination of cardiac chambers should be made in order not to miss smaller lesions elsewhere [32, 33].
                http://static-content.springer.com/image/art%3A10.1186%2F1471-2261-14-66/MediaObjects/12872_2013_718_Fig4_HTML.jpg
                Figure 4

                Multiple rhabdomyomas – 4 chambers.

                http://static-content.springer.com/image/art%3A10.1186%2F1471-2261-14-66/MediaObjects/12872_2013_718_Fig5_HTML.jpg
                Figure 5

                Multiple rhabdomyomas.

                The diagnosis of TSC is made clinically. A clinical scoring system was developed that divides the diagnostic criteria for TSC into major and minor features. Single or multiple cardiac rhabdomyomas are considered a major feature.

                However, the expression and the severity of the disease show substantial variation within, as well as between, families. The classical diagnostic triad of seizures, mental retardation, and facial angiofibromas occurs in fewer than half of the patients [5].

                Neurologic manifestations are the most common; 90% of affected people experience seizures, and ∼ 30% to 40% have mental retardation or autism [34, 35].

                Other signs of tuberous sclerosis include cutaneous lesions, such as, angiofibromas, shagreen patches and hypopigmented macules, brain lesions, such as, cortical/subcortical tubers, subependymal nodules, subependymal giant cell astrocytomas and white matter lesions as well as renal and liver angiomyolipoma, retinal glial hamartomas and cysts in various locations, including the liver, kidneys and pancreas [36].

                During follow-up our patients developed seizures in 80,6% of cases and we cannot exclude that the rest of the patients might develop them subsequently. West Syndrome represented the most frequent epilepsy occurring in 54,3% of the cases followed by partial seizures in 16,1%, drug resistant epilepsy (16,1%) and Lennox-Gastaut in 9,6%. Other signs of neurological impairment were mental retardation (29%), psychomotor delay (16,1%), behavior disorders (16,1%) and language disorders in 1 (3,2%). Regarding the brain lesions, they were present in almost all of these patients (96,6%) and they mostly showed cortical tubers (80%). Also the other lesions characteristic of TSC were present: subependymal nodules in few more than half of cases (53,3%), cerebral white matter radial migration lines in less than half of cases (40%) and, rarely, subependymal giant cell astrocytoma in only 13,3% of patients. Often two or more lesions coexisted in the same patient. Finally, about the other lesions of TSC, we found hypomelanotic macules in all, facial angiofibroma in 45,1% and shagreen patches in only 19,3%. We detected retinal hamartoma in almost half of cases (41,9%), renal angiomyolipoma in 16,1% and renal cysts in only 6,4%. We cannot exclude that other lesions may develop over time.

                Our data suggest that if the prognosis of rhabdomyomas in usually favorable, it is also true that in cases associated with tuberous sclerosis the general prognosis might be worsened by onset of seizures or lesions in other organs later in life.

                Conclusions

                Although there are no consistent guidelines, cardiac monitoring must be carried out for all tuberous sclerosis patients with rhabdomyomas, with serial echocardiography every 6 months and annual Holter monitoring, even if most patients are usually free from cardiac symptoms. Despite the potentially favourable prognosis of patients with cardiac rhabdomyomas, their presence should be sought (by echocardiography) in patients with tuberous sclerosis.

                Regarding relation between rhabdomyomas and tuberous sclerosis we must consider that despite the potentially favourable cardiac evolution of patients with cardiac rhabdomyomas, their presence suggests a tuberous sclerosis with a neurological prognosis that is not related to the number or the dimensions of rhabdomyomas.

                Abbreviations

                TSC: 

                Tuberous sclerosis complex.

                Declarations

                Acknowledgements

                We acknowledge the excellent technical assistance of Nicola Bonanno of the Department of Pediatrics of University of Catania, Italy. We also acknowledge our secretary Concetta Scuderi for her collaboration in collecting data. All authors report no conflicts of interest to disclose.

                Work limitations

                About the association with tuberous sclerosis complex, we have not got the molecular analysis and/or to have its results for all patients. MRI is not performed in two patients. However we diagnosed tuberous sclerosis complex according clinical signs of disease.

                Authors’ Affiliations

                (1)
                Pediatric Cardiology, AOU Policlinico-Vittorio Emanuele
                (2)
                Department of Pediatrics, AOU Policlinico-Vittorio Emanuele
                (3)
                NICU, AOU Policlinico-Vittorio Emanuele

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                37. Pre-publication history

                  1. The pre-publication history for this paper can be accessed here: http://​www.​biomedcentral.​com/​1471-2261/​14/​66/​prepub

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