Children's Hospital Colorado
Colorado Fetal Care Center

Rhabdomyoma

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What is rhabdomyoma?

A rhabdomyoma is a noncancerous (benign) tumor that typically grows in clusters in the heart. Rhabdomyomas are the most common type of cardiac tumors seen in infants and children.

Cardiac rhabdomyomas usually grow in the muscles of the left and right ventricles (the lower chambers of the heart). More rarely, the tumors grow in the interventricular septum (the wall between the ventricles) or in the atria (the upper chamber of the heart).

Rhabdomyomas develop before birth — usually during the third trimester of pregnancy. If a tumor grows large enough, it can block blood flow through the heart. Smaller tumors may not cause any symptoms. In many cases, rhabdomyomas shrink on their own during a child’s first few years.

What causes rhabdomyoma?

The majority (about 80%) of children born with rhabdomyoma also have the genetic disorder tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC). TSC causes noncancerous tumors to grow in the heart as well as the brain, kidneys, eyes, lungs and skin. Other rhabdomyoma cases are isolated, meaning the cause is unknown and the child doesn’t have TSC.

Who gets rhabdomyoma?

Rhabdomyomas are rare. They account for just 1% of heart problems diagnosed before birth.

A child born with mutations (changes) on the TSC1 or TSC2 genes will have tuberous sclerosis complex, which may also result in rhabdomyomas. A child may inherit the defective gene from a parent or the mutation may develop spontaneously. TSC affects males and females equally and is diagnosed in about one out of every 6,000 infants.

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Get to know our pediatric experts.

Henry Galan, MD

Henry Galan, MD

Maternal-Fetal Medicine, Ob/Gyn Obstetrics & Gynecology

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Allison Dempsey, PhD

Allison Dempsey, PhD

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Nicholas Behrendt, MD

Nicholas Behrendt, MD

Maternal-Fetal Medicine, Ob/Gyn Obstetrics & Gynecology

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Cristina Wood, MD

Cristina Wood, MD

Anesthesiology

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