Signs and Symptoms of Cardiac Tamponade: What are They and How are They Diagnosed and Treated?

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Cardiac tamponade is a condition in which fluid accumulates in the sac surrounding the heart (pericardium). This uncommon condition can lead to too much fluid putting pressure on the heart, resulting in the heart not being able to pump enough blood throughout the body. This condition can be caused by complications of kidney disease, trauma, accumulation of toxins in the blood, coronary events, pericardium inflammation, or cancer.

Common Signs and Symptoms

Some signs and symptoms of cardiac tamponade are experienced by most patients with this condition. The severity and frequency of these symptoms are different for all patients. These signs and symptoms include bluish skin, sharp chest pain, forward-leaning posture caused by shortness of breath and pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, weakness, abdominal swelling, and anxiety.

Clinical Signs and Symptoms

The clinical signs and symptoms of cardiac tamponade are the signs and symptoms that are often not directly noticed through observation or by the patient. These signs and symptoms are often more serious. They include narrowed pulse pressure, decreasing arterial blood pressure, muffled heart sounds and rapid heart rhythms, increasing venous blood pressure, big reduction of systolic blood pressure and pulse volume when the patients inhales.

Acute Treatment

The acute form of this condition is a medical emergency. Patients will be quickly diagnosed and their course of treatment determined. Treatment will revolve around immediately reducing the amount of fluid surrounding the pericardium and alleviating the patients symptoms. Oxygen and pain medication are often used.

Chronic Treatment

Patients who experience the chronic form of this condition will often require long-term treatment. The main goal of treatment is to keep the amount of fluid around the pericardium to a minimum. This is most often done through aspiration. To aspirate the fluid, a doctor will carefully numb the chest area and use a need to go below the breast, into the pericardium. Once the needle is in place a catheter is placed and the excess fluid around the pericardium is aspirated and drained. Other treatments may include pericardiotomy, percutaneous balloon pericardiotomy, pericardiectomy, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Patients should also keep a watchful eye out for the signs and symptoms of fluid build-up.


Total Health. (2009). Cardiac Tamponade. Retrieved on October 25, 2009 from Website: