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Pericardial Effusion


Pericardial effusion is a buildup of fluid in the pericardium. The pericardium is a 2-layer sac that surrounds the heart. The sac normally contains a small amount of clear fluid between its layers. This allows the heart to move smoothly against other organs in the chest as it beats. The buildup of fluid may affect how the heart works.


Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.


  • Antibiotics help treat an infection caused by bacteria.
  • NSAIDs help decrease swelling, pain, and fever.
  • Steroids help decrease swelling.


  • An EKG records your heart rhythm and how fast your heart beats. It is used to check for damage or problems in your heart.
  • An echocardiogram is a type of ultrasound. Sound waves are used to show the structure and function of your heart.
  • A CT or MRI scan takes pictures of your chest. The pictures may show fluid around your heart or other problems. You may be given a dye before the pictures are taken to help healthcare providers see your heart better. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye. 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.
  • Pericardiocentesis is a procedure used to take a sample of fluid from the pericardial pericardium with a needle. The fluid is sent to a lab for tests.


  • A balloon procedure is done to drain extra fluid. A needle is put into the pericardium and a guidewire is threaded through the needle. The needle is then removed. A catheter (thin tube) with a balloon at its end is passed over the guidewire into the correct position in the pericardium. The balloon is inflated and deflated several times to create an opening for the fluid to drain out.
  • Catheter placement is a procedure that may be done to drain extra fluid. An incision is made in your chest below the breast bone. A catheter is put through the incision into the pericardium. The catheter is left in place to drain the extra fluid out of your body.
  • Pericardiocentesis may also be done. During this procedure, extra fluid is removed with a syringe through a needle put into your chest. This may be done to quickly remove fluid that is pressing on your heart and affecting how it beats.
  • Surgery may be done to remove part or most of the pericardium.


You may develop an infection or bleed more than expected after a procedure to remove fluid from your pericardium. If left untreated, your condition may continue to cause symptoms for a long time. You may get scarring and stiffening of the pericardium that can affect the way your heart beats. This may cause decreased blood flow to your organs, which can cause damage. This can be 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.

Learn more about Pericardial Effusion (Inpatient Care)

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