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Pericardiocentesis may be used as a treatment. If too much fluid builds up in the sac, this can put extra pressure on the heart. This is known as
cardiac tamponade. It is a life-threatening condition. Withdrawing some of the fluid will help to relieve the pressure on the heart.
Pericardiocentesis may also be used to diagnose the cause of fluid buildup. Fluid buildup is known as pericardial effusion. The buildup can be caused by an infection,
cancer, trauma, autoimmune disorders, or
drug use. It may also indicate the presence of
heart attack, or
Echocardiogram—a test that uses sound waves (ultrasound) to examine the size, shape, and motion of the heart
Leading up to your procedure:
Talk to your doctor about your medicines (prescription and over the counter). You may be asked to stop taking some medicines up to one week before the procedure, like:
or other anti-inflammatory drugs
Blood thinners, such as
You will need to restrict your intake of fluid and food prior to the procedure. The doctor or nurse will give you specific instructions.
If you have diabetes, ask your doctor how to adjust your medicines for the procedure.
Light sedation will be given to help you relax. You will be awake during the procedure. A local anesthesia will be injected at the insertion site. It will numb an area on your chest.
Description of Procedure
You will lie on a table. An IV line will be inserted into your arm. The sedative will be delivered this way. The area where the needle will be inserted will be washed. Your heart will be monitored.
The needle will be inserted into the chest. It will be slowly moved toward the heart. Ultrasound and possibly fluoroscopy will be used to help guide the needle to the correct location. The needle will be passed into the pericardial sac, but no further.
Once in the pericardial sac, the fluid will be removed. The needle may be used, or a catheter tube may be inserted over the needle. After some fluid is collected or enough of the fluid has drained out, the needle or catheter will be removed. Pressure will be applied to the injection site for several minutes. This is done to stop the bleeding.
In some cases, your doctor may leave the catheter in place. This will allow draining to continue over several hours or days.
Immediately After Procedure
You will have a chest x-ray to make sure your lung has not been punctured. You will be closely monitored for several hours after the procedure. Your pulse, blood pressure, and breathing will be checked regularly.
The fluid removed from the pericardial sac is sent to a lab to be analyzed.
How Long Will It Take?
About 20-60 minutes
How Much Will It Hurt?
You may feel pain when the needle is inserted.
Average Hospital Stay
Hospital stay can vary from one day to several days. If the catheter remains in place to continue draining fluid, you may need to stay in the hospital several days.
During your stay, the hospital staff will take steps to reduce your chance of infection such as:
Washing their hands
Wearing gloves or masks
Keeping your incisions covered
There are also steps you can take to reduce your chances of infection such as:
Washing your hands often and reminding visitors and healthcare providers to do the same
Reminding your healthcare providers to wear gloves or masks
Brockman RG, Ziskind AA. Pericardiocentesis and associated treatment of pericardial effusion.
Cardiac Intensive Care. 1998;657-663.
Pericardiocentesis (pericardial tap). Cleveland Clinic Heart Center website. Available at: ...(Click grey area to select URL) Accessed September 16, 2005.
Pericardium and pericarditis. American Heart Association website. Available at: ...(Click grey area to select URL) Accessed September 25, 2005.
Protocol cardiac: pericardiocentesis. Vanderbilt University Medical Center website. Available at: ...(Click grey area to select URL) Accessed September 16, 2005.
Spodick DH. Acute cardiac tamponade.
New England Journal of Medicine. 2003;349:684-690.
Tibbles CD, Porcaro W. Procedural applications of ultrasound.
Emergency Medicine Clinics of North America.
6/3/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance ...(Click grey area to select URL) Mills E, Eyawo O, Lockhart I, Kelly S, Wu P, Ebbert JO. Smoking cessation reduces postoperative complications: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Med. 2011;124(2):144-154.e8.
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This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.