Recognizing the Causes and Symptoms of Pericardial Effusion

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Recognizing the Causes and Symptoms of Pericardial Effusion
Recognizing the Causes and Symptoms of Pericardial Effusion

Pericardial effusion is a condition when the membrane covering the heart or pericardium experiences fluid accumulation. This condition usually occurs due to injuries to the chest and heart or from certain diseases

In addition to injury to the chest or heart, pericardial effusion can also be caused by inflammation of the lining of the heart or pericarditis and bleeding into the lining of the heart.

Recognizing the Causes and Symptoms of Pericardial Effusion - Alodokter

Pericardial effusion is a dangerous condition and needs to be watched out for because it can overload the heart and make the heart's performance decrease. If not treated immediately, pericardial effusion can even lead to heart failure and even death.

Different Causes of Pericardial Effusion

One of the main causes of pericardial effusion is inflammation of the lining of the heart due to viral infection. These infections can be caused by cytomegalovirus, coxsackievirus, and HIV.

Besides viral infection, there are several other conditions that can cause pericardial effusion including:

  • Heart attack
  • Autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus
  • Cancer, especially lung cancer and breast cancer
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Injury or impact on the chest cavity
  • Cardiac tamponade due to a stab wound near the heart
  • Side effects of certain drugs, such as hydralazine for high blood pressure, isoniazid, and the anti-seizure drug phenytoin

Recognizing Symptoms that Appear

The main symptom of a pericardial effusion is chest pain, especially at the back of the sternum. Chest pain due to pericardial effusion also tends to be more severe when the sufferer takes a deep breath and bends down.

In addition to chest pain, pericardial effusion can also cause other symptoms, including:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Hoarse voice
  • Anxious and confused
  • Exhaustion
  • Hiccup
  • Not comfortable breathing when lying down (orthopnea)
  • Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea

However, if the symptoms of pericardial effusion are getting more serious, such as accompanied by shortness of breath, loss of consciousness or fainting, palpitations (heart palpitations), and cold sweats, the patient should seek medical attention immediately, because this type of pericardial effusion can be life-threatening..

How to Treat Pericardial Effusion

In mild pericardial effusion with known clear cause, it may not require special treatment. However, in principle, the treatment of pericardial effusion depends on how much fluid has accumulated in the lining spaces of the heart, as well as its severity and cause.

To treat pericardial effusion caused by pericarditis, the doctor may prescribe several types of drugs, such as corticosteroids or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin.

It's different if it turns out that the patient has a severe infection or impaired heart function, the treatment for pericardial effusion that may be recommended is to remove fluid and prevent more fluid from accumulating in the pericardium as soon as possible. This handling can be done in two ways, namely:


The doctor will insert a needle through the chest into the pericardial effusion and continue with the catheter, then the doctor will aspirate the fluid out of the pericardium.


This procedure must be performed by a surgeon and is performed under general anaesthesia. In a pericardiectomy, the doctor will make an incision in the chest and cut out part of the pericardium, thereby draining the pericardial effusion and preventing the risk of recurrence in the future.

A pericardial effusion that attacks around the heart, cannot be underestimated. If you experience chest pain or other symptoms of pericardial effusion, consult a cardiologist immediately for proper treatment.

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