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Pericardial Effusion

Pericardial effusion: Symptoms, Causes and Risk Factors, Diagnosis, Treatments | National Heart Centre Singapore

Pericardial Effusion - What it is

A pericardial effusion occurs when there is excess fluid in the pericardium, which is the double-walled sac around the heart.

The condition exerts pressure on the heart and can lead to heart failure or death if left untreated.

Pericardial Effusion - Symptoms

Some signs of pericardial effusion include:
  • Chest pain or chest fullness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Discomfort when breathing especially when lying down
However, a patient may not develop any symptoms, especially when the fluid has accumulated slowly.

Pericardial Effusion - How to prevent?

Pericardial Effusion - Causes and Risk Factors

Causes
The space between the two layers typically contains a layer of fluid, known as the pericardial fluid. However, an injured or abnormal pericardium can result in the increase of fluid. Pericardial effusion can also develop when the flow of fluid is blocked or when blood builds up within the pericardium after an injury to the chest.

Risks
Excess fluid in the pericardium can exert pressure on the heart chambers, resulting in their inability to expand fully. This can then lead to cardiac tamponade, a life-threatening condition where blood and oxygen is unable to circulate efficiently to the body.

Pericardial Effusion - Diagnosis

The doctor will perform an initial evaluation and order some diagnostic tests to evaluate the condition of the patient.

Examples for initial diagnostic tests are: 

Pericardial Effusion - Treatments

Cardiac tamponade is an emergency condition and the excess fluid has to be drained immediately. Pericardiocentesis is a procedure that uses a needle to remove fluid from the pericardial sac. 

For patients who have failed or are unsuitable for pericardiocentesis, surgical drainage may be required for the relief of pericardial tamponade. During this surgical procedure, part of the pericardium may be cut and removed if required. 

Doctors may also prescribe medication to stabilise blood pressure after the procedure

Pericardial Effusion - Preparing for surgery

Pericardial Effusion - Post-surgery care

Pericardial Effusion - Other Information

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