Pericardiocentesis

The pericardial sac surrounds the heart. It normally contains a small amount of fluid. Pericardiocentesis is the withdrawal of fluid from this sac with a needle. PericardiocentesisCopyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

  • Call Your Doctor

    After you leave the hospital, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:

    • Signs of infection, including fever and chills
    • Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or discharge from the insertion site
    • Pain that you cannot control with the medicines you have been given
    • Cough, difficulty breathing, or chest pain
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Dizziness

    In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.

  • Definition

    The pericardial sac surrounds the heart. It normally contains a small amount of fluid. Pericardiocentesis is the withdrawal of fluid from this sac with a needle.

    Pericardiocentesis
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    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

  • What to Expect

  • Reasons for Procedure


    Pericardiocentesis may be used as a treatment. If too much fluid builds up in the sac, this can put extra pressure on the heart. This is known as
    cardiac tamponade. It is a life-threatening condition. Withdrawing some of the fluid will help to relieve the pressure on the heart.


    Pericardiocentesis may also be used to diagnose the cause of fluid buildup. Fluid buildup is known as pericardial effusion. The buildup can be caused by an infection,
    cancer, trauma, autoimmune disorders, or
    drug use. It may also indicate the presence of
    rheumatoid arthritis,
    heart attack, or
    kidney failure.

  • Possible Complications

    If you are planning to have
    a pericardiocentesis, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:

    • Needle damage to an organ in the chest, like the lung or heart
    • Bleeding
    • Infection
    • Disruption of the heart’s normal rhythm

    Before your procedure, talk to your doctor about ways to manage factors that may increase your risk of complications such as:

    • Smoking
    • Drinking
    • Chronic disease such as diabetes or obesity
    • The use of certain medications