Pericardial effusion corresponds to the accumulation of blood or fluid in the membrane that envelops the heart, called pericardium, resulting in cardiac obstruction, which directly interferes with the flow of blood to the organs and tissues; for this reason, it is considered a serious situation that must be treated as soon as possible.
In most cases, this situation is a consequence of inflammation of the pericardium, a condition known as pericarditis, which can be caused by bacterial or viral infections, autoimmune diseases or cardiovascular alterations. It is important that the cause of pericarditis and, therefore, the pericardial effusion be identified so that treatment can be initiated.
Pericardial effusion heals when the diagnosis is made both promptly and with the onset of symptoms, and treatment is started immediately after acknowledging the cardiologist’s instructions; it is possible, in this way, to avoid fatal complications for the heart.
The symptoms of pericardial effusion vary according to the rate of fluid accumulation and the amount accumulated in the pericardial space, which directly influences the severity of the illness. The symptoms of stroke are related to the alteration in the supply of blood and oxygen to the body, which include:
- Difficulty breathing;
- Empeoramiento del cansancio when the person finds himself at the side;
- Pain in the pecho, generally behind the sternum or on the left side of the pecho;
- Low fever;
- Increase in heart rate.
The diagnosis of pericardial effusion is performed by the cardiologist based on the evaluation of the signs and symptoms presented by the person, the analysis of the health history and the performance of exams, such as cardiac auscultation, chest radiography and echocardiogram.
What can cause a pericardial effusion?
Usually, the pericardial effusion is the result of an inflammation of the pericardium known as pericarditis, and this can occur due to infections by bacteria, viruses or fungi; autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus; hypothyroidism; use of drugs to control high blood pressure, owing to the accumulation of urea in blood as a consequence of renal failure.
In addition, pericarditis can occur due to heart cancer, lung cancer metastasis, breast cancer or leukemia, injury or trauma to the heart. In this way, these situations can provoke inflammation of the tissue that covers the heart and favor the accumulation of fluids in this region, giving rise to pericardial effusion.
How is the treatment performed?
The treatment for pericarditis is indicated by the cardiologist in order to deal with the cause of the stroke, the amount of accumulated fluid and the consequence that this may have on the functioning of the heart.
In this way, if the pericardial effusion is mild, in which there is a risk of compromising cardiac function, the treatment consists of the use of medications such as aspirin; non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, such as ibuprofen, corticosteroids, such as prednisolone, which reduces inflammation and symptoms of illness.
However, if there is a risk of heart problems, it may be necessary to extract this liquid through different procedures:
- Pericardiocentesis: procedure that consists of inserting a needle and a catheter in the pericardial space to drain the accumulated fluid;
- Surgery: used to drain fluid and repair pericardial injuries that could cause effusions;
- Pericardiectomy: it consists of the removal, by means of surgery, of part or the entire pericardium, used mainly in the treatment of recurrent pericardial effusions.
In this way, it is important that the diagnosis and treatment are carried out as quickly as possible to avoid the emergence of complications.
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