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Why Choose Penn Medicine

The internationally recognized team of cardiac surgeons at Penn Medicine delivers leading-edge surgical care for every cardiac condition, including pericarditis.

Our surgeons perform more than 3,000 procedures each year. Our high volumes translate into greater surgical expertise and better outcomes for you. U.S. News & World Report ranks our Heart Surgery Program first in Pennsylvania and high performing in all heart surgery-related disciplines.

Pericardiectomy Treatment Overview

Pericardiectomy is the surgical removal of the pericardium, the membrane that surrounds the heart. It is used to treat constrictive pericarditis, which is when the pericardium becomes stiff. When this happens, the heart cannot fully expand when it beats, so the heart chambers do not properly fill with blood. Blood backs up behind the heart, resulting in heart failure symptoms.

Pericardiectomy Procedure Details

Pericardiectomy is performed under general anesthesia, so your cardiac surgeon works closely with a cardiac anesthesiologist to ensure you’re safe and comfortable. Next, they:

  • Make an incision through the breastbone to access the heart. You will be connected to a heart-lung machine, which takes over the work of your heart so it is still while the surgeon operates.
  • Cut away all or part of the pericardium, allowing it to move and expand more freely.
  • Perform other procedures. If you need other heart repairs, your surgeon can often perform them during the same operation. You benefit by undergoing general anesthesia only one time.
  • Close the incision and move you to a recovery unit for close observation while you wake up. You will then move to the intensive care unit (ICU) where you will be cared for by a team of cardiac specialists. You are usually moved to a regular nursing floor within 24 hours where you are closely monitored until discharge.

Cardiac Rehabilitation After Pericardiectomy

To help you quickly return to an active lifestyle after surgery, you may benefit from cardiac rehab when you leave the hospital. Our rehabilitation specialists provide gentle exercises, nutrition guidance and support in an outpatient facility.

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