Carney complex

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]


Carney complex is an autosomal dominant condition comprising myxomas of the heart and skin, hyperpigmentation of the skin (lentiginosis), and endocrine overactivity (Carney et al, 1985; McCarthy et al, 1986). It must be differentiated from Carney syndrome (also known as Carney triad). Approximately 7% of all cardiac myxomas are associated with Carney complex(Reynen 1995).


The majority of cases of Carney complex are caused by mutations in the PRKAR1-α gene on chromosome 17q24, which has been suggested to function as a tumor-suppressor gene.

Clinical Features

The spotty skin pigmentation and lentigines occur most commonly on the face, especially on the lips, eyelids, conjunctiva, and oral mucosa (McCarthy et al, 1986). Cardiac myxomas may lead to embolic strokes and heart failure (Reynen, 1995) and may present with fever, joint pain, shortness of breath, diastolic rumble, and tumor plop. Myxomas may also occur outside the heart, usually in the skin and breast. Endocrine tumors may manifest as disorders such as Cushing syndrome.

DIfferentiating Carney complex disease from other diseases

Disease Gene Chromosome Differentiating Features Components of MEN Diagnosis
Parathyroid Pitutary Pancreas
von Hippel-Lindau syndrome Von Hippel–Lindau tumor suppressor 3p25.3
  • Angiomatosis, 
  • Hemangioblastomas,
  • Pheochromocytoma, 
  • Renal cell carcinoma,
  • Pancreatic cysts (pancreatic serous cystadenoma)
  • Endolymphatic sac tumor,
  • Bilateral papillary cystadenomas of the epididymis (men) or broad ligament of the uterus (women)
- - +
  • Clinical diagnosis
  • In hereditary VHL, disease techniques such as Southern blotting and gene sequencing can be used to analyse DNA and identify mutations.
Carney complex  PRKAR1A 17q23-q24
  • Myxomas of the heart
  • Hyperpigmentation of the skin (lentiginosis)
  • Endocrine (ACTH-independent Cushing's syndrome due to primary pigmented nodular adrenocortical disease)
- - -
  • Clinical diagnosis
Neurofibromatosis type 1 RAS 17 - - - Prenatal
  • Chorionic villus sampling or amniocentesis can be used to detect NF-1 in the fetus.

Postnatal Cardinal Clinical Features" are required for positive diagnosis.

  • Six or more café-au-lait spots over 5 mm in greatest diameter in pre-pubertal individuals and over 15 mm in greatest diameter in post-pubertal individuals.
  • Two or more neurofibromas of any type or 1 plexiform neurofibroma
  • Freckling in the axillary (Crowe sign) or inguinal regions
  • Optic glioma
  • Two or more Lisch nodules (pigmented iris hamartomas)
  • A distinctive osseous lesion such as sphenoid dysplasia, or thinning of the long bone cortex with or without pseudarthrosis.
Li-Fraumeni syndrome TP53 17 Early onset of diverse amount of cancers such as - - -


  • Sarcoma at a young age (below 45)
  • A first-degree relative diagnosed with any cancer at a young age (below 45)
  • A first or second degree relative with any cancer diagnosed before age 60.
Gardner's syndrome APC  5q21
  • Multiple polyps in the colon 
  • Osteomas of the skull
  • Thyroid cancer,
  • Epidermoid cysts,
  • Fibromas
  • Desmoid tumors
- - -
  • Clinical diagnosis
  • Colonoscopy
Multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 RET - + - -

Criteria Two or more specific endocrine tumors

Cowden syndrome PTEN -  Hamartomas - - -
  • PTEN mutation probability risk calculator
Acromegaly/gigantism - - - + -
Pituitary adenoma - - - + -
Hyperparathyroidism - - - + - -
  • An elevated concentration of serum calcium with elevated parathyroid hormone level is diagnostic of primary hyperparathyroidism.
  • Most consistent laboratory findings associated with the diagnosis of secondary hyperparathyroidism include elevated serum parathyroid hormone level and low to normal serum calcium.
  • An elevated concentration of serum calcium with elevated parathyroid hormone level in post renal transplant patients is diagnostic of tertiary hyperparathyoidism.


- Characterized by - - -
  • Increased catecholamines and metanephrines in plasma (blood) or through a 24-hour urine collection.
Adrenocortical carcinoma
  • p53
  • Retinoblastoma h19
  • Insulin-like growth factor II (IGF-II)
  • p57kip2
17p, 13q  - - -
  • Increased serum glucose
  • Increased urine cortisol
  • Serum androstenedione and dehydroepiandrosterone
  • Low serum potassium
  • Low plasma renin activity
  • High serum aldosterone.
  • Excess serum estrogen.
Adapted from Toledo SP, Lourenço DM, Toledo RA. A differential diagnosis of inherited endocrine tumors and their tumor counterparts, journal=Clinics (Sao Paulo), volume= 68, issue= 7, 07/24/2013[1]


Cardiac myxomas can be difficult to remove surgically because of recurrence within the heart, often far away from the site of the initial tumor. (McCarthy et al, 1986; Reynen, 1995).

Related Disorders

LAMB (lentigines, atrial myxoma, mucocutaneous myxoma, blue nevi) and NAME (nevi, atrial myxoma, myxoid neurofibromata, ephelides) syndromes are considered variants of Carney complex.


  • Carney JA, Gordon H, Carpenter PC, Shenoy BV, Go VL (1985). "The complex of myxomas, spotty pigmentation, and endocrine overactivity". Medicine (Baltimore). 64 (4): 270–83. PMID 4010501.
  • McCarthy PM, Piehler JM, Schaff HV, Pluth JR, Orszulak TA, Vidaillet HJ Jr, Carney JA (1986). "The significance of multiple, recurrent, and "complex" cardiac myxomas". J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 91 (3): 389–96. PMID 3951243.
  • Reynen K (1995). "Cardiac myxomas". N Engl J Med. 333 (24): 1610–7. PMID 7477198.
  • Stratakis CA, Kirschner LS, Carney JA (2001). "Clinical and molecular features of the Carney complex: diagnostic criteria and recommendations for patient evaluation". J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 86 (9): 4041–6. PMID 11549623.

External links


  1. Toledo SP, Lourenço DM, Toledo RA (2013). "A differential diagnosis of inherited endocrine tumors and their tumor counterparts". Clinics (Sao Paulo). 68 (7): 1039–56. doi:10.6061/clinics/2013(07)24. PMC 3715026. PMID 23917672.