Pericardiocentesis, also called a pericardial tap, is an invasive procedure in which a needle and catheter remove fluid from the sac around the heart. The fluid is tested for signs of infection, inflammation, presence of blood, and cancer.
Occasionally, pericardiocentesis is performed on an emergency basis to treat a condition called cardiac tamponade, a life-threatening, rapid buildup of fluid around the heart that weakens its pumping ability. The procedure relieves pressure on the heart.
It’s dramatic when someone has a heart attack on television or in the movies. But in real life, symptoms can be more subtle and difficult to identify. And because heart attack and angina symptoms are so similar, it may be hard to tell what's going on.
But knowing the differences -- and the reasons behind them -- can result in seeking treatment sooner, and living longer.
You will be given a mild sedative to relax you, but you will be awake and conscious during the entire procedure.
An IV (intravenous) line is inserted in your hand or arm in case fluids or medications are needed.
The doctor will use a local anesthetic to numb an area on your chest. A needle will be inserted and then a catheter (a thin plastic tube) will be threaded into the pericardial sac around your heart. The doctor may use an X-ray or echocardiography machine to make sure the catheter is positioned correctly. The doctor will drain the fluid that has collected around your heart.
When the fluid has been removed, the catheter may be removed. Sometimes it is left in place for more drainage.
A pericardiocentesis takes about 20 to 60 minutes to perform.