The aim of the study was to determine the aetiology of large and symptomatic pericardial effusions and to review the management and subsequent outcome. A survey was done on a consecutive cases of patients who had undergone percutaneous pericardiocentesis over a 10 year period in a city centre general hospital serving a multiethnic catchment population. In all, 46 patients (24 male, 22 female; age range 16 to 90 years, mean 54 years) underwent a total of 51 pericardial drainage procedures (or attempted pericardiocentesis) between 1989 and 1998. Malignancy (44%), tuberculosis (26%), idiopathic (11%), and post-cardiac surgery (9%) were the most common causes of pericardial effusion. The most common presenting symptoms were breathlessness (90%), chest pain (74%), cough (70%), abdominal pain (61%) (presumed to be related to hepatic congestion), and unexplained fever (28%). In the 12 cases of tuberculous pericarditis, nine occurred in patients of Indo-Asian origin, and three in patients of Afro-Caribbean origin. Fever, night sweats, and weight loss were common among these patients, occurring in over 80% of cases of tuberculous pericarditis. Pulsus paradoxus was the most specific sign (100%) for the presence of echocardiographic features of tamponade, with strongest positive predictive value (100%). Although malignancy remains the most common cause in developed countries, tuberculous disease should be considered in patients from areas where tuberculosis is endemic. Percutaneous pericardiocentesis remains an effective measure for the immediate relief of symptoms in patients with cardiac tamponade, although its diagnostic yield in tuberculous pericarditis is relatively low.
- pericardial effusions
- percutaneous pericardiocentesis
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