Cardiac Tamponade

By: Ashlee Rollins

What is Cardiac Tamponade?

Cardiac Tamponade is pressure on the heart that occurs when blood or fluid builds up in the space between the myocardium and the pericardium


The likelihood of this condition occuring is 2 out of every 10,000 people

What is the Cause of Cardiac Tamponade?

Blood or fluid builds up in the pericardium which prevents the heart's ventricles from fully expanding. The result is the body doesn't receive an adequate amount of blood.


Causes may include:

  • Dissecting aortic aneurysm
  • End stage lung cancer
  • Acute myocardial infarction
  • Pericarditis
  • Heart tumors
  • Recent heart surgery

What are the symptoms of Cardiac Tamponade?

Symptoms may include:


  • Anxiety, or restlessness
  • Sharp chest pain felt in the neck, shoulders, or back
  • Chest pain that worsens with deep breathing and/or coughing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Rapid breathing
  • Pale, gray, or blue skin
  • Weak or absent pulse
  • Discomfort relieved by sitting up or leaning forward

How is Cardiac Tamponade Diagnosed?

An Endocardiogram is the most common method of diagnosis


Physical exams may show


  • Pulsus paradoxial ( decreasing blood pressure) with deep breaths
  • Rapid breathing
  • Tachycardia
  • Faintily heard heart sounds
  • Bulging neck veins
  • Weak or absent peripheral pulse



Other methods of diagnosis are:


  • Chest CT or MRI
  • Chest X-Ray
  • Coronary Angiogram
  • EKG
  • Right heart catherization

How is Cardiac Tamponade Treated?

  • Pericardiocentesis: a procedure done to drain the blood or fluid with a needle
  • Surgical Pericardiectomy or Pericardial window is a surgical procedure to remove a part of the pericardium.
  • Fluids may be given to sustain normal blood pressure until the fluid around the heart can be drained
  • Oxygen may be given to lessen the workload of the heart


The cause must be found and treated as soon as possible

What is the Prognosis of Cardiac Tamponade?

Cardiac Tamponade is a medical emergency and must be treated quickly. If not treated quick enough it can lead to quick death


Possible Complications may include:

  • Cardiac Failure
  • Pulmonary Edema
  • Shock
  • Death

Cardiac tamponade English version