Article Text

Download PDFPDF

Cardiac tamponade as the initial presentation of malignancy: is it as rare as previously supposed?
  1. K. W. Muir,
  2. J. C. Rodger
  1. Monklands District General Hospital, Airdrie, UK.


    Advanced malignant disease frequently involves the heart and pericardium, and pericardial effusion is a common postmortem finding in such patients. Identification of pericardial effusions in life is uncommon, however, even when symptomatic. Cardiac tamponade occurring as the first presentation of malignancy appears to be uncommon. We present five cases of cardiac tamponade due to undiagnosed malignancy which presented to a general medical unit over 18 months. The availability of echocardiography was an important factor in correct diagnosis, since clinical features were non-specific. Bronchial adenocarcinoma was the cause in three of the five cases. Review of the literature confirms adenocarcinomas of the bronchus as the most common cause of this complication. The majority of cases have presented with large volume, haemorrhagic effusions, and cytology (with or without carcinoembryonic antigen measurement) was diagnostic in most patients. Immediate treatment with subxiphoid pericardiotomy is recommended; the role of balloon catheter pericardiotomy remains to be established. Combined chemotherapy and radiotherapy appears to extend survival, which in some cases may be prolonged. We recommend that early echocardiography should be obtained in all patients presenting with apparent cardiac failure, since early treatment of malignant effusions provides symptomatic relief.

    Statistics from

    Request Permissions

    If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.