Pericardial drainage (pericardiocentesis) is done to find the cause of fluid buildup around the heart and to relieve pressure on the heart. The tissue sac that surrounds the heart is called the pericardium. It protects the heart and parts of the major blood vessels connected to the heart. Normally, there is a small amount of fluid between this sac and the heart. This fluid surrounds and helps cushion the heart. It helps reduce friction between the heart and other structures in the chest when the heart beats.
Some diseases cause fluid to collect within the pericardium. This fluid collection is called Reference pericardial effusion Opens New Window. (See a picture of Reference pericardial effusion Opens New Window Reference Opens New Window.) Excess fluid can prevent normal filling of the heart, which can reduce the heart's ability to pump blood (Reference cardiac tamponade Opens New Window).
Pericardial drainage may be done to find the cause of a pericardial effusion. During this test, a needle is inserted into the chest and into the pericardium to remove a sample of the fluid. The fluid is sent to a laboratory where it is measured and checked for blood, microorganisms (such as bacteria, Reference fungi Opens New Window, or viruses), Reference white blood cells Opens New Window, sugar (glucose), and cancer cells. In some cases, the pericardial fluid may be checked for other substances (such as carcinoembryonic antigen, or CEA).
Pericardial drainage may also be done to help relieve pressure on the heart. It is sometimes done in an emergency if a serious injury has occurred, such as a gunshot or stab wound to the chest or a massive Reference heart attack Opens New Window. In these circumstances, blood or fluid can build up very rapidly in the Reference pericardium Opens New Window. An emergency pericardial drainage can be done to remove the blood or excess pericardial fluid surrounding the heart.
|By:||Reference Healthwise Staff||Last Revised: Reference June 13, 2012|
|Medical Review:||Reference Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
Reference George Philippides, MD - Cardiology