Condition 101 About Cardiac Tamponade

What is the definition of Cardiac Tamponade?

Cardiac tamponade is pressure on the heart that occurs when blood or fluid builds up in the space between the heart muscle and the outer covering sac of the heart.

What are the alternative names for Cardiac Tamponade?

Tamponade; Pericardial tamponade; Pericarditis - tamponade

What are the causes for Cardiac Tamponade?

In this condition, blood or fluid collects in the sac surrounding the heart. This prevents the heart ventricles from expanding fully. The excess pressure from the fluid prevents the heart from working properly. As a result, the body does not get enough blood.

Cardiac tamponade can occur due to:

  • Dissecting aortic aneurysm (thoracic)
  • End-stage lung cancer
  • Heart attack (acute MI)
  • Heart surgery
  • Pericarditis caused by bacterial or viral infections
  • Wounds to the heart

Other possible causes include:

  • Heart tumors
  • Underactive thyroid gland
  • Kidney failure
  • Leukemia
  • Placement of central lines
  • Radiation therapy to the chest
  • Recent invasive heart procedures
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus
  • Dermatomyositis
  • Heart failure

Cardiac tamponade due to disease occurs in about 2 out of 10,000 people.

What are the symptoms for Cardiac Tamponade?

Symptoms may include:

  • Anxiety, restlessness
  • Sharp chest pain that is felt in the neck, shoulder, back, or abdomen
  • Chest pain that gets worse with deep breathing or coughing
  • Problems breathing
  • Discomfort, sometimes relieved by sitting upright or leaning forward
  • Fainting, lightheadedness
  • Pale, gray, or blue skin
  • Palpitations
  • Rapid breathing
  • Swelling of the legs or abdomen
  • Jaundice

Other symptoms that may occur with this disorder:

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Weak or absent pulse

What are the current treatments for Cardiac Tamponade?

Cardiac tamponade is an emergency condition that needs to be treated in the hospital.

The fluid around the heart must be drained as quickly as possible. A procedure that uses a needle to remove fluid from the tissue that surrounds the heart will be done.

A surgical procedure to cut and remove part of the covering of the heart (pericardium) may also be done. This is known as surgical pericardiectomy or pericardial window.

Fluids are given to keep blood pressure normal until the fluid can be drained from around the heart. Medicines that increase blood pressure may also help keep the person alive until the fluid is drained.

Oxygen may be given to help reduce the workload on the heart by decreasing tissue demands for blood flow.

The cause of tamponade must be found and treated.

What is the outlook (prognosis) for Cardiac Tamponade?

Death due to cardiac tamponade can occur quickly if the fluid or blood is not removed promptly from the pericardium.

The outcome is often good if the condition is treated promptly. However, tamponade may come back.

What are the possible complications for Cardiac Tamponade?

Complications may include:

  • Heart failure
  • Pulmonary edema
  • Bleeding
  • Shock
  • Death

When should I contact a medical professional for Cardiac Tamponade?

Go to the emergency room or call the local emergency number (such as 911) if symptoms develop. Cardiac tamponade is an emergency condition that needs immediate medical attention.

How do I prevent Cardiac Tamponade?

Many cases can't be prevented. Knowing your personal risk factors may help you get early diagnosis and treatment.



Hoit BD, Oh JK. Pericardial diseases. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 68.

LeWinter MM, Imazio M. Pericardial diseases. In: Zipes DP, Libby P, Bonow RO, Mann DL, Tomaselli GF, Braunwald E, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 83.

Mallemat HA, Tewelde SZ. Pericardiocentesis. In: Roberts JR, Custalow CB, Thomsen TW, eds. Roberts and Hedges' Clinical Procedures in Emergency Medicine and Acute Care. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 16.

Latest Advances On Cardiac Tamponade

  • Condition: Prosthetic Mitral Valve Paravalvular Leak
  • Journal: The American journal of case reports
  • Treatment Used: Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD) Amplatzer Occluder Device
  • Number of Patients: 1
  • Published —
This case report describes a patient with a prosthetic mitral valve paravalvular leak.
  • Condition: Ventricular Tachycardia
  • Journal: Open heart
  • Treatment Used: Radiofrequency Ablation
  • Number of Patients: 5242
  • Published —
The study researched outcomes of radiofrequency ablation for patients with ventricular tachycardia.

Clinical Trials For Cardiac Tamponade

Clinical Trial
  • Status: Not yet recruiting
  • Phase: N/A
  • Intervention Type: Device
  • Participants: 100
  • Start Date: February 1, 2021
HIS-Purkinje Conduction System Pacing Optimized Trial of Cardiac Resynchronization Therapy
Clinical Trial
  • Status: Not yet recruiting
  • Phase: N/A
  • Intervention Type: Procedure
  • Participants: 60
  • Start Date: November 1, 2020
Intracardiac Versus Transesophageal Echocardiography for Left Atrial Appendage Occlusion Combined With Radiofrequency Ablation