What Is Pericardial Effusion?

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By brett
Article Sources Article Sources
  • 1. Colombo, A. et al. Etiology and prognostic implications of a large pericardial effusion in men. Clinical Cardiology vol. 11,6 (1988):389-94. doi: 10.1002/clc.4960110606.
  • 2. Sagrist√†-Sauleds, Jaume et al. Diagnosis and management of pericardial effusion. World Journal of Cardiology vol. 3,5 (2011): 135-43. doi: 10.4330/wjc.v3.i5.135.
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A normal heart is surrounded by a sac called the pericardium, which consists of two thin layers of tissue with a small amount of fluid between them. When the heart beats, this fluid helps to reduce the friction between the two layers of the pericardium.

Sometimes, a buildup of fluid occurs. This is referred to as a pericardial effusion. The excess fluid can inhibit normal heart functioning. The degree of severity can range from mild to acute. Severe cases can lead to heart failure or death when left untreated.

1. Causes

There are a number of potential causes for pericardial effusion. Cancer in the heart or metastasizing cancers from the lungs, breasts or blood can lead to the condition, as can cancer treatments. Autoimmune conditions are also potential factors that can cause a buildup of pericardium fluid, as are kidney failure and hyperthyroidism.

Inflammation, also known as pericarditis, in the pericardium due to an infection, heart attack or heart surgery is a common cause. Idiopathic pericarditis refers to inflammation with an unknown cause, though frequently it is presumed to be from an infection. Idiopathic pericarditis may be the most common cause of severe pericardial effusion in men.1Colombo, A. et al. Etiology and prognostic implications of a large pericardial effusion in men. Clinical Cardiology vol. 11,6 (1988):389-94. doi: 10.1002/clc.4960110606.

Pericardial Effusion

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