Cardiac tamponade (patient information)

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Associate Editor-In-Chief: Varun Kumar, M.B.B.S.


Cardiac tamponade is compression of the heart that occurs when blood or fluid builds up in the space between the myocardium (heart muscle) and the pericardium (outer covering sac of the heart). This prevents the ventricles from expanding fully. The excess pressure from the fluid prevents the heart from functioning normally.

What are the symptoms of cardiac tamponade?

What causes cardiac tamponade?

Cardiac tamponade can occur when fluid or blood rapidly accumulates in pericardial cavity and thereby cause elevated intrapericardial pressure. Below are few of the causes for fluid in pericardium leading to cardiac tamponade.

When to seek urgent medical care?

Go to the emergency room or call the local emergency number (such as 911) if symptoms develop. Cardiac tamponade is an emergency condition requiring immediate attention.


Your doctor may advice the following tests:

Treatment options

Cardiac tamponade is an emergency condition that requires hospitalization.

The fluid around the heart must be drained. Pericardiocentesis is a procedure that uses a needle to remove fluid from the pericardial sac, the tissue that surrounds the heart.

A procedure to cut and remove part of the pericardium (surgical pericardiectomy or pericardial window) may also be done.

Fluids are given to maintain normal blood pressure until pericardiocentesis can be performed. Medications that increase blood pressure may also help sustain the patient's life until the fluid is drained.

The patient may be given oxygen. This reduces the workload on the heart by decreasing tissue demands for blood flow.

The cause of the tamponade must be identified and treated.

What to expect (Outlook/Prognosis)

Tamponade is life-threatening if untreated. The outcome is often good if the condition is treated promptly, but tamponade may come back.

Possible complications


Below is a video demonstrating bleeding into the pericardium leading to development of cardiac tamponade. {{#ev:youtube|QwgfuDegC5Y}}


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