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Pericardiocentesis


Definition:

Pericardiocentesis is a procedure that uses a needle to remove fluid from the pericardial sac, the tissue that surrounds the heart.

Alternative Names:

Pericardial tap; Percutaneous pericardiocentesis

How to prepare for the test:

You may not be able to eat or drink for 6 hours before the test. You must sign a consent form.

How the test will feel:

You may feel pressure as the needle enters. Some people have chest pain, which may require pain medication.

Why the test is performed:

This test may be done to remove and examine fluid that is pressing on the heart. It is usually done to evaluate the cause of a chronic or recurrent pericardial effusion.

It may also be done to treat cardiac tamponade.

Normal Values:

There is normally a small amount of clear, straw-colored fluid in the pericardial space.

What the risks are:
  • Bleeding
  • Collapsed lung
  • Heart attack
  • Infection (pericarditis)
  • Irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias)
  • Puncture of the heart muscle, coronary artery, lung, liver, or stomach
  • Pneumopericardium (air in the pericardial sac)
References:

LeWinter MM, Tischler MD. Pericardial diseases. In: Bonow RO, Mann DL, Zipes DP, Libby P, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap75.

Little WC, Oh JK. Pericardial diseases. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 77.


Review Date: 6/7/2012
Reviewed By: Glenn Gandelman, MD, MPH, FACC Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine at New York Medical College, and in private practice specializing in cardiovascular disease in Greenwich, CT. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. Copyright 2002 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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