Cardiac metastases are more prevalent than primary cardiac tumors, and although rare, the incidence is anticipated to increase with the extended survival of oncology patients.


To estimate the current incidence of cardiac metastasis from solid tumors in adult autopsies.


Adult autopsy cases from 1984 through 2019 from patients diagnosed with any type of solid cancer were retrieved. The medical charts and pathologic autopsy data were reviewed in detail.


A total of 1294 adult autopsies diagnosed with any type of cancer within the past 35 years were reviewed. We found 124 secondary cardiac tumors. Eighty-five were due to cardiac involvement by solid tumors. Of these, 61 were true cardiac metastases of solid cancers. We focused on these 61 cases. The age range was 32 to 85 years. Forty-four were men and 17 were women. The lung was the most common primary site with 21 cases (34.43%). The most frequent histologic type was carcinoma with 54 cases (88.52%). The predominant layer of the heart involved was the pericardium with 35 cases (57.38%). Twenty-one cases (34.43%) had pericardial effusion with 4 being hemorrhagic. All cases had multiple extracardiac metastases with 56 cases (91.8%) having distant metastases in 4 or more different organs.


Cardiac metastasis is a rare occurrence with an incidence of 4.71% (61 of 1294 cases) in our series. Lung cancer accounted for most of the cardiac metastases seen, and carcinomas were the most frequent histologic type. The pericardium was the most frequent location. Cardiac metastases occurred most frequently in cases of massive metastatic dissemination.

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Author notes

The authors have no relevant financial interest in the products or companies described in this article.

Part of this work was presented as a poster at United States and Canadian Academy of Pathology 109th Annual Meeting 2020; March 3, 2020; Los Angeles, California.