Pericardial Effusion

Dr. Alrich L. Gray // Central Montana Heart & Vascular Institute

Pericardial Effusion

Pericardial effusion is the buildup of fluid around the heart. In severe cases of pericardial effusion, too much fluid surrounds the heart and it reduces the heart’s ability to expand and pump blood around the body effectively (this severe case is called tamponade). Mild cases of pericardial effusion may have no symptoms, but symptoms in severe cases include:

  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Fainting
  • Increased heart rate
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling in the abdomen or legs

If your case is not severe, your doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce the amount of fluid around the heart. In more severe cases, the fluid surrounding the heart may have to be drained using a long, thin tube called a catheter.