All You Need To Know About Cardiac Tamponade

Published on Nov 25, 2023 by

Cardiac Tamponade

Your heart is a muscular organ that plays a crucial role in circulating oxygenated and nutrient-rich blood to all cells of your body. It is located in the thoracic cavity behind the sternum and is surrounded by the pericardium. The pericardium is a two-walled sac that surrounds the heart, anchoring it to the surrounding structures. 

The pericardium is also responsible for limiting the expansion of the heart during diastole, and therefore, preventing over-filling of the heart. Cardiac tamponade or pericardial tamponade, is when the pericardium fills with fluid or blood, causing the heart to run out of room. This way the heart cannot expand properly to fill with blood and then pump enough of it as normal. A cardiologist in Islamabad listed symptoms, risk factors, treatment, and some preventive measures related to this condition for your information. Let us have a detailed look:

Signs And Symptoms

The heart is unable to pump blood properly and therefore, its normal function is hindered. This medical emergency puts pressure on the heart causing it to beat faster to try to pump more blood. When this happens quickly, it presents with several acute symptoms such as a sharp pain in the chest. The pain may extend to the arm, back, and neck. You may have trouble breathing and may feel bouts of dizziness or lightheadedness. 

Heart palpitations, fast pulse, and changes in skin color are common in this case as well. If this condition happens slowly, you may feel your legs or abdomen swell up. Shortness of breath and chest discomfort along with fatigue are other symptoms. 

What Can Cause This?

Fluid may fill up in the pericardium as a result of end-stage lung cancer, acute myocardial infarction (heart attack), infections, or damage to the heart. Damage to the heart may occur due to trauma whether it be blunt or penetrative. 

Other causes include heart tumors, kidney failure, leukemia, lupus, or hypothyroidism. 

Diagnostic Tests

Cardiac tamponade is a dangerous condition to have. It can lead to complications such as cardiovascular shock, heart failure, and consequently death. This must be diagnosed timely so that appropriate treatment protocols can be followed. 

A physical exam will be done to show breathing issues if blood pressure falls in case of deep breathing, heart rate, heart sounds, or distended neck veins. Cardiac tamponade is usually characterized by signs called the Beck’s Triad. These include three signs such as hypotension (low blood pressure), bulging neck veins, and muffled heart sounds. Other diagnostic tests include an echocardiogram, chest X-ray, CT scan, and an EKG. A chest X-ray will show if the heart is abnormally large or of an unusual shape due to fluid buildup. EKG will determine if the electrical activity is ideal or not. A CT scan will detect any extra fluid in the pericardium. 

Treatment Options

Timely treatment is necessary to avoid serious complications and death. The treatment usually involves draining excessive fluid from the pericardium. After drainage, the underlying cause may be checked and treated accordingly. To remove the fluid around the heart, the following methods can be adopted by your healthcare practitioner:


Commonly known as a pericardial tap, pericardiocentesis involves removing fluid using a needle. The ideal site for needle insertion is where the largest fluid collection lies closest to the surface of the skin. This is a relatively common procedure that you can get done at HM Diagnostics and Clinic. It is safe and easy to perform. It may take a few minutes to drain the fluid. If the fluid is too much, a catheter tube may also be used to drain slowly. The drained fluid may then be tested to figure out why it was building in the first place. 


This is the procedure to remove all or part of the pericardium. This is done when the pericardium is too stiff. Stiffness causes the heart to not fill with blood properly. This way, no more hindrances are observed in pumping the blood. This procedure is rare and a cardiopulmonary bypass may be done to aid the process of removal. It takes – hours and the patient may feel sore post-surgery. 


In this procedure, blood or blood clots are drained from around the heart. This requires general anesthesia during the procedure and hospitalization for at least a week post-surgery. Risks include bleeding, infection, lung collapse, or pain. 

Minimally invasive procedures are recommended to treat a cardiac tamponade. Pericardiocentesis is the most frequently adopted one. Further monitoring of blood pressure and overall health is necessary. 


Your health after cardiac tamponade depends on how quickly you receive the treatment and the underlying cause of the condition. Serious complications and death can be prevented by timely diagnosis and prompt treatment. Follow-up appointments must not be missed after treatment. 

About the Author: Elwaa Milton

Elwaa Milton is a skilled writer known for her insightful contributions to a wide range of publications. Her engaging storytelling and meticulous research make her work both informative and thought-provoking.

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