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Pericarditis / Pericardial Effusion - Know More About It!

Written and reviewed by
Dr. Prashant Vazirani 90% (156 ratings)
MD - Medicine, DNB Medicine, DNB - Cardiology (Gold Medalist)
Cardiologist, Ahmedabad  •  5 years experience
Pericarditis / Pericardial Effusion - Know More About It!

Pericardial effusion is the excess fluid between the heart and sac surrounding the heart. The fluid keeps the heart moving in the sac. The excess fluid can cause a problem in the workings of the heart and may lead to death. The space between two layers of sac usually contain 2-3 tablespoons of clear liquid. But pericardial effusion can affect the heart beats and make it weaker.

Causes

The leading cause of the pericardial effusion is pericarditis. In this condition, the layered sac of the heart is inflamed due to some viral infection. This inflamed sac produces more fluid.

Some of the most common infections that cause pericarditis are:

● Viral infection

● Cytomegalovirus

● Coxsackieviruses

● Echoviruses

HIV

The other causes of pericarditis and pericardial effusion are:

● Injury in the heart or the sac

Cancer

Kidney failure

Tuberculosis

Lupus

Symptoms

Generally, when there is minimal or no inflammation in the sac, there are no symptoms. However, chest pain and short-breathing are the most common symptoms for pericardial effusion.

The large pericardial effusion in the heart sac can show symptoms like:

Shortness of breath

● Passing out occasionally

● Fast heart pounding

Fatigue

● Clammy skin

In some cases, where the condition is not worse, patients may experience:

Fever

● Fatigue

Vomiting

● Muscle aches

● Viral illness

Diagnosis

The person experiencing the above-mentioned symptoms should visit a cardiologist for a checkup. The doctor may ask for following tests and checkups for determining the condition:

● Physical Checkup: In the physical checkup, the doctor listens to the heartbeat of the patient and assess the heart beat rate. He will also ask about the family history and medication records.

● EKG: With EKG, doctors determine the heart rate with the help of electronic devices. Electrodes are placed on the chest, and heart activity is tested. However, the presence of pericardial effusion is difficult with EKG.

● Chest X-Ray: X-Ray is an excellent way to detect the presence of pericardial effusion in the patient. The enlarged portion is detected in the image. Once an enlarged sac is detected, doctors order the echocardiogram test. It is an Ultrasound for the heart and gives a clear picture of the patient's heart condition. Once it is determined that the patient has pericardial effusion, the doctor determines the size of the enlarged sac and quantity of liquid in it. Most of the time, pericardial effusion is small and not severe. But if the size and quantity of the liquid are high, the doctor determines the condition of the heart and the ability to pump the blood. The doctor may also take a sample of the fluid from the sac to determine the exact cause for inflammation.

Take Away

Pericardial Effusion is a condition in which fluid is accumulated between the heart and sac surrounding the heart. Though the problem is not severe, it is advisable to consult a doctor.

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