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 pericardial effusion. (See a picture of pericardial effusion .) Excess fluid can
prevent normal filling of the heart, which can reduce the heart's ability to
pump blood (cardiac tamponade).
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,
fungi, or viruses),
white blood cells, 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
heart attack. In these circumstances, blood or fluid
can build up very rapidly in the
pericardium. An emergency pericardial drainage can be
done to remove the blood or excess pericardial fluid surrounding the
Why It Is Done
Pericardial drainage is done
- Relieve pressure on the heart.
the cause of pericardial effusion.
- Remove blood or excess fluid
after a heart attack or a serious injury, such as a gunshot or stab
How To Prepare
Tell your doctor if you:
You may not be able to eat or drink
for several hours before the test.
Some blood tests, including
those to check for
anemia and blood-clotting problems, may be done before
Because this is a test involving your heart, you may
have to stay overnight in the hospital to be monitored closely. If a drain is
inserted during the test, you may have to stay for several days.
Unless the procedure is being done in an emergency, you
will be asked to sign a consent form. Talk to your doctor about any concerns
you have regarding the need for the test, its risks, how it will be done, or
what the results will mean. To help you understand the importance of this test,
fill out the
medical test information form(What is a PDF document?).