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Comprehensive review of evaluation and management of cardiac paragangliomas


Cardiac paraganglioma (PGL) is a rare neuroendocrine tumour causing significant morbidity primarily due to norepinephrine secretion potentially causing severe hypertension, palpitations, lethal tachyarrhythmias, stroke and syncope. Cardiologists are faced with two clinical scenarios. The first is the elevated norepinephrine, whose actions must be properly counteracted by adrenoceptor blockade to avoid catastrophic consequences. The second is to evaluate the precise location of a cardiac PGL and its spread since compression of cardiovascular structures may result in ischaemia, angina, non-noradrenergic-induced arrhythmia, cardiac dysfunction or failure. Thus, appropriate assessment of elevated norepinephrine by its metabolite normetanephrine is a gold biochemical standard at present. Furthermore, dedicated cardiac CT, MRI and transthoracic echocardiogram are necessary for the precise anatomic information of cardiac PGL. Moreover, a cardiologist needs to be aware of advanced functional imaging using 68Ga-DOTA(0)-Tyr(3)-octreotide positron emission tomography/CT, which offers the best cardiac PGL-specific diagnostic accuracy and helps to stage and rule out metastasis, determining the next therapeutic strategies. Patients should also undergo genetic testing, especially for mutations in genes encoding succinate dehydrogenase enzyme subunits that are most commonly present as a genetic cause of these tumours. Curative surgical resection after appropriate α-adrenoceptor and β-adrenoceptor blockade in norepinephrine-secreting tumours is the primary therapeutic strategy. Therefore, appropriate and up-to-date knowledge about early diagnosis and management of cardiac PGLs is paramount for optimal outcomes in patients where a cardiologist is an essential team member of a multidisciplinary team in its management.

  • cardiac imaging and diagnostics
  • cardiac CT imaging
  • positron emission tomographic (PET) imaging
  • genetics
  • systemic review

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