Pericardial effusion is a condition in which you have fluid between your heart muscle and its moist outer covering, the pericardium. It can be blood, pus, or clear serous fluid. As the accumulated fluid puts pressure on your heart, it can cause heart failure, which can be fatal. A common term for this is fluid around the heart.
If you’ve received a diagnosis of pericardial effusion and live in Stockton or a surrounding area, the skilled professionals at St. Joseph's Heart & Vascular Institute provide the advanced care you need.
Pericardial Effusion Causes & Symptoms
During pericardial effusion, fluid leaks from inflamed or damaged nearby blood vessels. There are several conditions that can cause pericardial effusion. Some of the most common causes include:
- Rheumatic fever
- Radiation therapy near your heart
- Some types of chemotherapy
- Some types of prescription drugs
- Trauma to the heart
- Heart surgery
- Inflammatory diseases, such as lupus
Pericardial effusion can build up slowly, so it does not always cause symptoms right away.
The signs and symptoms may include:
- Difficulty swallowing
- Low-grade fever
- Shortness of breath
- Rapid heart rate
- Feeling light-headed
- Difficulty breathing, especially when you’re lying down
- Chest pain, which worsens when you’re lying down and when you take a breath
If you experience any of the following symptoms, call 911 for immediate medical care:
- Painful breathing
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest pain lasting more than a few minutes
Pericardial Effusion Treatment & Prevention in the Stockton Region
At Dignity Health, our recommendations for treatment for pericardial effusion vary according to the severity. You may need a combination of treatments depending on the underlying cause of pericardial effusion:
- Pericardial window, also called subxiphoid pericardiostomy, is a small incision in the pericardium to drain the fluid. It requires an incision just below the end of the breastbone or through a small incision between the ribs on the left side of your chest.
- Intrapericardial sclerosis is a treatment option for recurrent pericardial effusion or effusion caused by cancer. Your cardiologist injects a solution into the space between the two layers of the pericardium to seal the layers together.
- Medications, such as anti-inflammatories or corticosteroids, can reduce inflammation.
- Pericardiocentesis is a needle inserted through your skin into the pericardial space to drain the fluid.
- Percutaneous balloon pericardiotomy is placement of a balloon in the pericardial space to prevent more fluid from accumulating.
You may be able to prevent pericardial effusion by treating and managing underlying causes. For instance, if you have had radiation treatment near the heart or chemotherapy, let your doctors know so they can monitor your heart function. Rely on our to provide exceptional, advanced care every step of the way.
St. Joseph's Heart & Vascular Institute offers comprehensive care for pericardial effusion in the Stockton region as part of our cardiovascular services.