Pericardial effusion is a buildup of fluid between your heart and its outer covering, the pericardium. Your doctor may refer to this as fluid around the heart. The fluid can be blood, pus, or serous (fluid that normally fills the body cavities). As fluid builds up, it puts pressure on your heart. Increased pressure can cause heart failure, which can be fatal.
Pericardial Effusion Treatment at Dignity Health
Dignity Health is a nationally recognized leader in heart and vascular care. We offer a full range of treatments for pericardial effusion in Arizona. Your care team includes cardiologists and cardiac nurses, as well as technicians, therapists, dieticians, and other specialists. Find a Doctor online or call (844) 852-0648 to make an appointment at our Chandler Regional Medical Center or St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center locations today.
Treatment for pericardial effusion depends on its severity and underlying cause. You may need a combination of treatments, including:
- Medications, including corticosteroids or anti-inflammatories to reduce inflammation
- Percutaneous balloon pericardiotomy, the placement of a balloon in the pericardial space to prevent more fluid from building up
- Pericardiocentesis, a needle inserted into the pericardial space through your skin to drain the fluid
- Intrapericardial sclerosis, a treatment option for pericardial effusion caused by cancer or recurring pericardial effusion
- Pericardial window or subxiphoid pericardiostomy, a small incision in the pericardium to drain the fluid between the ribs on the left side of your chest or just below the end of the breastbone
Pericardial effusion can sometimes be prevented by managing and treating its underlying cause. For instance, if you have had chemotherapy or radiation treatment near the heart, let your doctors know so they can monitor your heart function.
What Causes Fluid Around the Heart?
During pericardial effusion, fluid leaks from nearby blood vessels that are damaged or inflamed. Conditions and medical treatments that commonly cause pericardial effusion include:
- Heart surgery
- Trauma to the heart
- Inflammatory diseases, including lupus
- Rheumatic fever
- Radiation therapy near your heart
- Some types of prescription drugs and chemotherapy
Pericardial Effusion Symptoms
Pericardial effusion does not always cause symptoms right away because the fluid can accumulate slowly. Symptoms may include:
- Rapid heart rate
- Chest pain, which worsens when when you take a breath or when you’re lying down
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, especially when you’re lying down
- Low-grade fever
- Difficulty swallowing
If you experience any of the following symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately:
Dignity Health provides diagnostic procedures and treatment for pericardial effusion in Arizona.
- Difficulty breathing or painful breathing
- Chest pain lasting more than a few minutes