Chest Pain after drainage of a Pericardial Effusion

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Submitted by Dr T on September 30, 2013 – 4:47am

Question: 
I recently had pericardial effusion and tamponade…..I was fixed with a drain for 5 days but they did not go in blind. The surgeon cut a 4 inch incision in order to direct the drain and to take a biopsy of the pericardial sac. Its been 3 weeks and now Im having some sharp pains on my left side just under the rib cage. I feel like I have to hold my chest in to ease the pain. Could I have torn something or could it be fluid on the left lung causing the sharp pains? 

Your symptoms need to be evaluated with a chest x-ray and another echocardiogram. Cardiac Tamponade is the end result of a pericardail effusion

Pericarditis can result from one or more of these:

  • a viral, bacterial or fungal infection
  • heart attack
  • cancer spreading from a nearby tumor in the lung, breast or the blood
  • radiation treatment
  • injury or surgery

Sometimes it accompanies other diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and kidney failure.

Since the cause of the pericardial effusion has not yet been made, you have only been treated for relief of symptoms and the effusion is likely to return. The biopsy result may render a diagnosis but often only shows evidence of inflammation. 

The sharp pains etc. may be the result of another effusion or what is called a “post-cardiotomy syndrome“:

Hope this helps,

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