Pericardial Effusion and Cardiac Tamponade

If your effusion is small, you may have no symptoms at all.

Pericardial effusion and cardiac tamponade are two different, yet related, conditions. A pericardial effusion is a collection of fluid that develops between the pericardium, the lining of the heart, and the heart itself. The seriousness of the condition depends on the primary cause, size, and growth rate of the effusion and whether it can be treated effectively. Causes include infections, inflammatory disorders, cancer, kidney failure and heart surgery.

When pericardial effusion leads to cardiac tamponade, the condition can be life-threatening.

Pericardial effusions can either develop quickly or grow significantly over long periods of time if the pericardial sac is able to stretch. When it has expanded as much as the space will allow, it can lead to cardiac tamponade, a severe compression of the heart that impairs its ability to pump blood effectively. Cardiac tamponade is rare, but it is a medical emergency that can result in pulmonary edema, shock and death if the excess fluid around the heart is not drained.

Symptoms of cardiac tamponade may include:
• Shortness of Breath
• Dizziness or passing out
• Altered mental status
• Cold and clammy extremities
• Chest pressure

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