Pericardial effusion treatment overview

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Associate Editor-In-Chief: Cafer Zorkun, M.D., Ph.D. [2]; Varun Kumar, M.B.B.S


Treatment of pericardial effusion depends on the underlying cause and the severity of the problem. Patients with acute inflammatory signs may get symptomatic relief with anti-inflammatory drugs.


  • Pericardial effusion due to a viral infection usually resolves within a few weeks without treatment.
  • Some pericardial effusions remain small and never require treatment.
  • If the pericardial effusion is due to a condition such as lupus, treatment with aspirin or non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs may provide benefit.
  • If the effusion is compromising heart function and causing cardiac tamponade, it will need to be drained, most commonly by a needle inserted through the chest wall and into the pericardial space.
  • A drainage tube is often left in place for several days. In some cases, surgical drainage may be required by pericardiocentesis, in which a needle, and sometimes a catheter are used to drain excess fluid. Pericardial window is made surgically in patients with recurrent pericardial effusion which drains the fluid into peritonial cavity[1].

Indications for pericardiocentesis or a pericardial window include the following:[2]


  1. Stuart J. Hutchison (10 December 2008). Pericardial diseases: clinical diagnostic imaging atlas. Elsevier Health Sciences. pp. 93–. ISBN 9781416052746. Retrieved 10 November 2010.
  2. Maisch B, Seferovic PM, Ristic AD, Erbel R, Rienmuller R, Adler Y, Tomkowski WZ, Thiene G, Yacoub MH (2004). "Guidelines on the diagnosis and management of pericardial diseases executive summary; The Task force on the diagnosis and management of pericardial diseases of the European Society of Cardiology". Eur Heart J. 25 (7): 587–10. doi:10.1016/j.ehj.2004.02.002. PMID 15120056.