Cardiac tamponade is pressure on the heart that occurs when blood or fluid builds up in the space between the heart muscle and the outer covering sac of the heart.
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In this condition, blood or fluid collects in the sac surrounding the heart. This prevents the heart ventricles from expanding fully. The excess pressure from the fluid prevents the heart from working properly. As a result, the body does not get enough blood.
A surgical procedure to cut and remove part of the covering of the heart (pericardium) may also be done. This is known as surgical pericardiectomy or pericardial window.
Fluids are given to keep blood pressure normal until the fluid can be drained from around the heart. Medicines that increase blood pressure may also help keep the person alive until the fluid is drained.
Oxygen may be given to help reduce the workload on the heart by decreasing tissue demands for blood flow.
The cause of tamponade must be found and treated.
Death due to cardiac tamponade can occur quickly if the fluid or blood is not removed promptly from the pericardium.
The outcome is often good if the condition is treated promptly. However, tamponade may come back.
Mallemat HA, Tewelde SZ. Pericardiocentesis. In: Roberts JR, Custalow CB, Thomsen TW, eds. Roberts and Hedges' Clinical Procedures in Emergency Medicine and Acute Care. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 16.
Mary C. Mancini, MD, PhD, Director, Cardiothoracic Surgery, Christus Highland Medical Center, Shreveport, LA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.