Pericardial Effusion

Find a Pericardial Specialist Near You

When fluid accumulates in your pericardium (the sac-like membrane that protects your heart) it’s called pericardial effusion. This is most commonly caused by pericarditis, which is inflammation of your pericardium.


If fluid buildup becomes excessive, it can impair the function of your heart.


Symptoms of pericardial effusion include:

  • Discomfort when breathing while lying down 
  • Chest pain 
  • Cough
  • Low-grade fever 
  • Rapid heart rate

Our Approach to Treating Pericardial Effusion


Heart specialists at Houston Methodist are experts at diagnosing and treating pericardial effusion. They work as a team to identify this condition, as well as determine the cause and severity of the fluid buildup.


When pericardial effusion is caused by pericarditis, our experts work to reduce inflammation in your pericardium using anti-inflammatory medications. For cases caused by infection, our heart doctors frequently prescribe antibiotics or antifungals.


If pericardial effusion is severe and fluid buildup is excessive, our interventional cardiologists are experts at performing pericardiocentesis. During this procedure, a catheter is used to drain excess fluid from the pericardial cavity. This fluid can then be examined to determine if your condition is caused by infection.


Another method for draining excess fluid buildup in the pericardium is pericardial window — a surgical procedure in which your doctor removes a small portion of the sac-like membrane. Your doctor may use this approach if your condition makes it to difficult to perform catheter pericardiocentesis, or if excess fluid recurred after an initial procedure to drain it.


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