What is a pericardial effusion?
The pericardium is the sac that encloses the heart. A pericardial effusion is an abnormal accumulation of fluid in the pericardial cavity. Because it is a small space with normally only up to 50ml of fluid present, a large effusion causes increased pressure in that space, compromising heart function. When severe and causing right heart chamber collapse, it is known as cardiac tamponade and is a surgical emergency. Symptoms may include shortness of breath, chest pain and low blood pressure.
What causes a pericardial effusion?
There are many potential causes, including but not limited to pericarditis, infection (viral or bacterial), inflammatory disorders such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, kidney failure and cancer.