Some people may have a cardiac monitor placed before the test to check for heart disturbances. Patches called electrodes will be placed on the chest, similar to during an ECG. A chest x-ray or ultrasound may be done before the test.
The skin of the chest will be cleaned with antibacterial soap. A trained physician, often a cardiologist, inserts a small needle into the chest between the ribs into the thin sac that surrounds the heart (the pericardium). A small amount of fluid is removed.
You may have an ECG and chest x-ray after the test. Sometimes the pericardial fluid is taken during open heart surgery.
The sample is sent to a lab, where special techniques are used to grow bacteria in samples of the fluid. It can take a few hours to several weeks to get the test results, depending on the type of organism.