Cardiac tamponade occurs when fluid builds up between the heart muscle and the surrounding tissue called the pericardium. This fluid compresses the heart. Because of this, enough blood cannot be pumped in and out of the heart.
This condition can be life-threatening. With proper treatment, the prognosis is good. Cardiac tamponade can return after treatment, though.
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Cardiac tamponade can be caused by a variety of factors and conditions, including:
—an inflammation of the sac that surrounds the heart, caused by bacterial or viral infections
Bleeding into the pericardium, caused by injuryRuptured heart muscleCancer in or near the heart
Symptoms vary from mild to severe. They typically include one or more of the following:
Fatigue or drowsinessShortness of breath, rapid breathing, or difficulty breathingDizziness or light-headedness
That extends to the neck, shoulders, or abdomenSharp or stabbing painPain that is worsened by coughing or deep breathingDiscomfort that can be relieved by sitting upright or leaning forwardSwelling of the abdomen, veins in the arms or legs, or other areasPale skin, or skin that is blue- or gray-tintedRapid heartbeatAnxiety
FaintingFeeling of weaknessGeneral discomfort
This is a serious condition. It can be life-threatening and requires immediate hospitalization and treatment.
Treatments are given to:
Save the patient's lifeImprove heart functionRelieve symptoms
Treatments that are given for cardiac tamponade include:
—a procedure to drain the fluid around the heart
Fluids to maintain normal blood pressureAntibioticsMedications to help increase blood pressure to normal levelsOxygen to reduce workload on the heartSurgery to remove or cut part of the pericardium
If you are diagnosed with cardiac tamponade, follow your doctor's
This condition usually cannot be prevented. However, understanding the risk factors can aid in prevention.
Last reviewed September 2012 by Michael J. Fucci, DO
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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