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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Simrat Sarai, M.D. [2]

Synonyms and Keywords: Rhabdomyomatous neoplasm; Adult rhabdomyoma; Genital rhabdomyoma; Fetal rhabdomyoma


A rhabdomyoma is a benign tumor of striated muscle. Rhabdomyomas develop mostly before the age of one year, almost exclusively in children, and approximately 80 to 90 percent are associated with tuberous sclerosis.[1][2] The most common primary pediatric tumor of the heart is cardiac rhabdomyoma.[3][4]


  • Rhabdomyoma may be classified into the following subtypes:
  • Neoplastic


The staging of rhabdomyomas is based on the grade (G), site (T), and metastasis (M), as follows:

  • G0 - Benign
  • T0 - Intracapsular
  • T1 - Extracapsular, intracompartmental
  • M0 - None
Stage Severity Description
Benign Stage 1
  • Latent G0T0M0
  • Remains static or heals spontaneously
Benign Stage 2
  • Active G0T0M0
  • Progressive growth but limited by natural barriers
Benign Stage 3
  • Aggressive G0T1M0
  • Progressive growth not limited by natural barriers



  • Cardiac rhabdomyomas tend to grow up to approximately 32 weeks gestation. After, cells usually lose their ability to divide and undergo apoptosis via a ubiquitin-mediated pathway. The degradation of myofilaments is expressed by ubiquitin. Apoptosis follows, leading to the eventual regression of the hamartoma. Complete or partial resolution occurs in the majority of cases, regardless of the initial size of the tumor.



Associated Conditions

  • Cardiac rhabdomyoma is a hamartomatous proliferation frequently associated with sebaceous adenomas, tuberous sclerosis of the brain, and various hamartomatous lesions of the kidney and other organs.

Gross Pathology

  • On gross pathology, round or polypoid mass in the region of the neck are characteristic findings of adult rhabdomyoma.
  • On gross pathology, characteristic findings of cardiac rhabdomyomas may include:
    • Round or lobulated, grossly well circumscribed masses which range from 1 mm to 10 cm in their greatest dimension
    • Isolated or multiple
    • Solid tan-white homogeneous consistency, often watery and glistening on their cut surface
    • Infrequently, calcification and hemorrhage

Microscopic Pathology

  • On microscopic histopathological analysis, characteristic findings of adult rhabdomyoma include:
    • Well-differentiated large cells, which are deeply eosinophilic polygonal with small, peripherally placed nuclei
    • Occasionally, intracellular vacuoles, which resemble striated muscle cells
  • On microscopic histopathological analysis, characteristic findings of fetal rhabdomyoma include spindle-shaped cells with indistinct cytoplasm and muscle fibers, which resemble striated muscle tissue seen in intrauterine development at 7-12 weeks.
  • On microscopic histopathological analysis, characteristic findings of genital rhabdomyoma include:
    • A mixture of fibroblast cells with clusters of mature cells containing distinct cross-striations
    • A matrix containing varying amounts of collagen and mucoid material
  • On microscopic histopathological analysis, characteristic findings of cardiac rhabdomyoma include cells that closely resemble embryonic cardiac muscle cells.
  • On microscopic histopathological analysis, characteristic findings of rhabdomyomatous mesenchymal hamartoma of the skin include lesions which contain poorly oriented or perpendicular bundles of well-differentiated skeletal muscle with islands of fat, fibrous tissue, and occasionally proliferating nerves.


  • Adult rhabdomyomas are almost totally matured neoplasms of clonal origin.
  • Cardiac rhabdomyoma may be caused by either sporadic mutation or in the setting of certain genetic disorders.
  • Approximately more than 50% of rhabdomyomas are caused by sporadic mutations.[5] However, in rare cases, Ebstein anomaly, tetralogy of Fallot, and hypoplastic left heart syndrome can be associated with cardiac rhabdomyoma.
  • The genetic disorder commonly associated with cardiac rhabdomyoma is tuberous sclerosis.[6] Other genetic disorders associated with cardiac rhabdomyomas include basal cell nevus syndrome and Down syndrome in the setting of tuberous sclerosis.[7][8]
  • The familial form of tuberous sclerosis is an autosomal dominant disorder characterized by widespread hamartomas that may involve the kidneys, heart, skin, brain, and other organs. The association of cardiac rhabdomyoma and tuberous sclerosis is important and has been explained by strong clinical association. Molecular evidence of this association has been identified as the TSC2 gene missense mutation.
  • Cardiac rhabdomyoma is caused by a mutation in the TSC-1 on chromosome 9q34 that encodes for protein hamartin, and TSC-2 on 16p13 that encodes for tuberin. These genes are both tumor suppressor genes that assist in the regulation of growth and differentiation of developing cardiomyocytes.

Differentiating Rhabdomyoma from Other Diseases

  • Rhabdomyomas must be differentiated from other diseases, such as:

Epidemiology and Demographics

  • Cardiac rhabdomyomas are usually detected during the first year of life or before birth. Cardiac rhabdomyomas account for over 60% of all primary cardiac tumors.
  • Worldwide, rhabdomyoma is rare.
  • Approximately 50% of patients with tuberous sclerosis develop a cardiac rhabdomyoma. Similarly, approximately 51-86% of children diagnosed with cardiac rhabdomyomas demonstrate radiologic or clinical evidence of tuberous sclerosis or have a positive family history. Rhabdomyoma is extremely rare in the United States. Rhabdomyoma has a relative incidence of 5.8%. The incidence of cardiac rhabdomyoma is 0.002-0.25% at autopsy, 0.02-0.08% in live-born infants, and 0.12% in prenatal reviews.[7][9]


  • Adult rhabdomyoma is more commonly observed among patients aged greater than 40 years old.
  • Fetal rhabdomyoma is more commonly observed among patients aged between birth and 3 years.
  • Cardiac rhabdomyoma is more commonly observed among patients in the pediatric age group.
  • Genital rhabdomyoma is more commonly observed among patients in the young and middle-aged women.
  • Rhabdomyomatous mesenchymal hamartomas of the skin is more commonly observed among newborns and infants.


  • Cardiac rhabdomyoma affects men and women equally.
  • Rhabdomyomatous mesenchymal hamartoma of skin is observed in male and female newborns and infants equally.
  • Males are more commonly affected with adult rhabdomyoma than females.
  • Males are more commonly affected with fetal rhabdomyoma than females.
  • Females are more commonly affected with genital rhabdomyoma than males.


  • There is no racial predilection for rhabdomyomas.

Risk Factors

  • There are no established risk factors for rhabdomyoma.

Natural History, Complications and Prognosis

Natural History

  • The majority of rhabdomyomas regress spontaneously, and resection is usually not required unless a child is symptomatic.[3][10]
  • If left untreated, cardiac rhabdomyomas generally follows a complete or partial regression with consequent resolution of symptoms. The majority of rhabdomyomas regress spontaneously, and surgical resection is usually not required unless a child is symptomatic.
    • If left untreated, tumors larger than 20 mm in diameter are more likely to cause arrhythmias or hemodynamic disturbances, which are associated with an increased risk of death.
    • The majority of patients with cardiac rhabdomyoma remain asymptomatic; however, some affected patients become symptomatic in the perinatal period.



  • Generally, prognosis is generally good depending on the part of the body involved; the survival rate of patients with rhabdomyoma is approximately 81% to 92%. Rhabdomyomas that alter valve function and lead to [[regurgitation (circulation)|regurgitation} or that obstruct the inflow or ventricular outflow tracts carry a poor prognosis. The long-term prognosis of cardiac rhabdomyoma is affected by the neurologic manifestations associated with tuberous sclerosis.
  • The prognosis of patients with rhabdomyomas is chiefly determined by the size, number and location of the lesions as well as the presence or absence of associated anomalies.
    • The morbidity of rhabdomyoma depends on the type of lesion and its location.
      • Patients with cardiac rhabdomyomas have the highest risk.
  • Metastases have not been associated with rhabdomyoma.



  • Symptoms of adult rhabdomyoma may include:
  • Symptoms of genital rhabdomyoma may include the following:
  • Symptoms of cardiac rhabdomyoma may include the following:

Physical Examination

  • Physical examination may be remarkable for:
  • The presence of a round or polypoid mass in the region of the neck in adult rhabdomyoma
  • Subcutaneous masses in the head and neck regions in fetal rhabdomyoma
  • Vaginal masses in genital rhabdomyoma
  • Cardiac rhabdomyomas may present with heart murmurs; if tuberous sclerosis is associated, the patient may display cerebral palsy–type signs. Renal functions may be altered.

Laboratory Findings

Imaging Findings

  • MRI is the imaging modality of choice for rhabdomyoma. Chest CT scan may be helpful in the diagnosis of cardiac rhabdomyoma.
  • On ultrasound, rhabdomyoma is characterized by one or more solid hyper echoic mass(es) located in relation to the myocardium. The small lesions can mimic diffuse myocardial thickening.
  • Radiographs of the chest and affected areas of the body may be helpful in the diagnosis of rhabdomyomas.[13]

Other Diagnostic Studies

  • Rhabdomyoma may also be diagnosed using biopsy.
    • Any masses, including those found in the head and neck of patients with adult rhabdomyoma, should be biopsied to establish a diagnosis.


Medical Therapy

  • There is no treatment for rhabdomyoma; the mainstay of therapy is supportive care. The majority of patients can be managed conservatively. Conservative management includes frequent monitoring of patients with echocardiography and electrocardiography.

Adult rhabdomyoma

  • In patients with adult rhabdomyoma, nasal oxygen may help patients with breathing difficulties.
    • In circumstances in which swallowing becomes extremely difficult in adult rhabdomyoma patients, supplemental intravenous fluids may be administered until surgery is performed. Patients with adult rhabdomyoma with problems related to swallowing may need to be placed on a liquid diet.
  • Until appropriate treatment can be undertaken, patients with adult rhabdomyoma who are experiencing breathing difficulties should restrict their activities. Patients with cardiac rhabdomyoma should also restrict their activities.[14][15][16]

Cardiac rhabdomyoma

  • The mainstay of therapy for cardiac rhabdomyoma is everolimus.
  • Patients with arrhythmias are treated with antiarrhythmic medications.
  • Until appropriate treatment can be undertaken, patients with cardiac rhabdomyoma who are experiencing breathing difficulties should restrict their activities.[14][15][16]

Genital rhabdomyoma


Adult rhabdomyoma

  • Surgical resection of the tumor can only be performed for patients with adult rhabdomyoma if airway obstruction is diagnosed.

Cardiac rhabdomyoma

  • Surgical intervention is reserved for patients with cardiac rhabdomyomas who have symptoms of severe hemodynamic compromise or intractable arrhythmias. Surgical management involves removal of the intracavitary portion of the tumor without complete excision of the entire lesion.


  • There are no primary preventive measures available for rhabdomyoma.


  1. Beghetti M, Gow RM, Haney I, Mawson J, Williams WG, Freedom RM (1997). "Pediatric primary benign cardiac tumors: a 15-year review.". Am Heart J. 134 (6): 1107–14. PMID 9424072. 
  2. Kocabaş A, Ekici F, Cetin Iİ, Emir S, Demir HA, Arı ME; et al. (2013). "Cardiac rhabdomyomas associated with tuberous sclerosis complex in 11 children: presentation to outcome.". Pediatr Hematol Oncol. 30 (2): 71–9. PMID 23151153. doi:10.3109/08880018.2012.734896. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Becker AE (2000). "Primary heart tumors in the pediatric age group: a review of salient pathologic features relevant for clinicians.". Pediatr Cardiol. 21 (4): 317–23. PMID 10865004. doi:10.1007/s002460010071. 
  4. Elderkin RA, Radford DJ (2002). "Primary cardiac tumours in a paediatric population.". J Paediatr Child Health. 38 (2): 173–7. PMID 12031001. 
  5. Burke A, Virmani R (2008). "Pediatric heart tumors.". Cardiovasc Pathol. 17 (4): 193–8. PMID 18402818. doi:10.1016/j.carpath.2007.08.008. 
  6. Vaughan CJ, Veugelers M, Basson CT (2001). "Tumors and the heart: molecular genetic advances.". Curr Opin Cardiol. 16 (3): 195–200. PMID 11357016. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 Isaacs H (2004). "Fetal and neonatal cardiac tumors.". Pediatr Cardiol. 25 (3): 252–73. PMID 15360117. doi:10.1007/s00246-003-0590-4. 
  8. Krapp M, Baschat AA, Gembruch U, Gloeckner K, Schwinger E, Reusche E (1999). "Tuberous sclerosis with intracardiac rhabdomyoma in a fetus with trisomy 21: case report and review of literature.". Prenat Diagn. 19 (7): 610–3. PMID 10419607. 
  9. Delides A, Petrides N, Banis K (2005). "Multifocal adult rhabdomyoma of the head and neck: a case report and literature review.". Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol. 262 (6): 504–6. PMID 15942804. doi:10.1007/s00405-004-0840-y. 
  10. Smythe JF, Dyck JD, Smallhorn JF, Freedom RM (1990). "Natural history of cardiac rhabdomyoma in infancy and childhood.". Am J Cardiol. 66 (17): 1247–9. PMID 2239731. 
  11. Bosi G, Lintermans JP, Pellegrino PA, Svaluto-Moreolo G, Vliers A (1996). "The natural history of cardiac rhabdomyoma with and without tuberous sclerosis.". Acta Paediatr. 85 (8): 928–31. PMID 8863873. 
  12. Jacobs JP, Konstantakos AK, Holland FW, Herskowitz K, Ferrer PL, Perryman RA (1994). "Surgical treatment for cardiac rhabdomyomas in children.". Ann Thorac Surg. 58 (5): 1552–5. PMID 7979700. 
  13. Germ cell tumors. Radiopedia(2015) http://radiopaedia.org/articles/cardiac-rhabdomyoma Accessed on January 25, 2016
  14. 14.0 14.1 Tiberio D, Franz DN, Phillips JR (2011). "Regression of a cardiac rhabdomyoma in a patient receiving everolimus.". Pediatrics. 127 (5): e1335–7. PMID 21464184. doi:10.1542/peds.2010-2910. 
  15. 15.0 15.1 Öztunç F, Atik SU, Güneş AO (2015). "Everolimus treatment of a newborn with rhabdomyoma causing severe arrhythmia.". Cardiol Young. 25 (7): 1411–4. PMID 26339757. doi:10.1017/S1047951114002261. 
  16. 16.0 16.1 Wagner R, Riede FT, Seki H, Hornemann F, Syrbe S, Daehnert I; et al. (2015). "Oral Everolimus for Treatment of a Giant Left Ventricular Rhabdomyoma in a Neonate-Rapid Tumor Regression Documented by Real Time 3D Echocardiography.". Echocardiography. 32 (12): 1876–9. PMID 26199144. doi:10.1111/echo.13015.