Cardiac tamponade (patient information)
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Cardiac tamponade is compression of the heart that occurs when blood or fluid builds up in the space between the myocardium (heart muscle) and the pericardium (outer covering sac of the heart). This prevents the ventricles from expanding fully. The excess pressure from the fluid prevents the heart from functioning normally.
What are the symptoms of cardiac tamponade?
- Anxiety, restlessness
- Chest pain- Sharp and stabbing pain which worsens with deep breathing or coughing.
- Difficulty breathing
- Discomfort, sometimes relieved by sitting upright or leaning forward
- Fainting, light-headedness
- Pale, gray, or blue skin
- Rapid breathing
- Swelling of the abdomen or other areas
- Low blood pressure
- Weak or absent pulse
What causes cardiac tamponade?
Cardiac tamponade can occur when fluid or blood rapidly accumulates in pericardial cavity and thereby cause elevated intrapericardial pressure. Below are few of the causes for fluid in pericardium leading to cardiac tamponade.
- Chest trauma
- Rupture of aortic aneurysm (thoracic)
- End-stage lung cancer
- Heart attack (acute MI)
- Heart surgery
- Pericarditis caused by bacterial or viral infections
- Wounds to the heart
- Heart tumors
- Kidney failure
- Placement of central lines
- Radiation therapy to the chest
- Recent invasive heart procedures
- Recent open heart surgery
- Systemic lupus erythematosus
When to seek urgent medical care?
Your doctor may advice the following tests:
Cardiac tamponade is an emergency condition that requires hospitalization.
Fluids are given to maintain normal blood pressure until pericardiocentesis can be performed. Medications that increase blood pressure may also help sustain the patient's life until the fluid is drained.
The cause of the tamponade must be identified and treated.
What to expect (Outlook/Prognosis)
Tamponade is life-threatening if untreated. The outcome is often good if the condition is treated promptly, but tamponade may come back.
Below is a video demonstrating bleeding into the pericardium leading to development of cardiac tamponade.