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Cardiac Tamponade

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Sep 3, 2023.

Cardiac tamponade occurs when too much fluid collects in the pericardium (the sac around your heart). The fluid puts pressure on your heart. This makes it difficult for your heart to pump. Fluid may collect slowly or quickly. Cardiac tamponade can become life-threatening.

Heart Chambers



  • Heart medicine helps your heart pump and improves blood flow to your body. Your healthcare provider may also use medicines to treat the condition that caused cardiac tamponade.
  • Pain medicine may be given. Do not wait until the pain is severe before you ask for more medicine.


  • Blood tests are done to find the cause of your symptoms. They are also used to check for infection or get information about your overall health.
  • An echocardiogram is a type of ultrasound. Sound waves are used to check for fluid around your heart.
  • An x-ray, CT scan, or MRI helps show if there is fluid around your heart. You may be given contrast liquid to help the pictures show up better. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if you have any metal in or on your body.
  • Pulmonary artery catheterization measures the pressure in your pulmonary arteries. It shows how well your heart is working.


Telemetry monitors your heart rhythm continuously. Sticky pads placed on your skin connect to an EKG machine that records your heart rhythm.


  • Pericardial drainage relieves pressure on your heart so it can pump normally. A catheter is inserted into the pericardium to drain fluid.
  • IV fluids may be given if your blood pressure is too low.
  • Oxygen is given if your blood oxygen level is lower than it should be. You may get oxygen through a mask placed over your nose and mouth or through small tubes placed in your nostrils.
  • Surgery may be needed to relieve pressure your heart. An incision is made into your chest and into the pericardium to drain fluid.


Cardiac tamponade may increase your risk for fainting and an irregular heartbeat. Treatment may cause a collapsed lung or air embolism (air bubble in a blood vessel). Treatment may also injure your heart or nearby blood vessels or organs. If cardiac tamponade is not treated, it can become life-threatening.


You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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