Percutaneous pericardiocentesis versus subxiphoid pericardiotomy in cardiac tamponade due to postoperative pericardial effusion

Giuseppe Susini, Mauro Pepi, Erminio Sisillo, Franco Bortone, Luca Salvi, Paolo Barbier, Cesare Fiorentini

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In a retrospective study, 42 patients with acute cardiac tamponade due to pericardial effusion were evaluated following cardiac surgery, and the pericardial fluid was drained by one of two alternative methods: two-dimensional echocardiographic-guided pericardiocentesis (2D-echo) or subxiphoid surgical pericardiotomy. During the first period (from 1982 to 1986), one of the two methods was chosen by the treating physicians, whereas in the second period (from 1986 to 1991), 2D-echo-guided pericardiocentesis was the treatment of choice. Percutaneous pericardiocentesis was performed using local anesthesia in 29 patients. A Tuohy needle was inserted at the left Apho-costal junction and, when fluid was obtained, 6 mL of saline solution was injected during 2D-echo contrast monitoring, and a multiple-hole, 6F, 30-cm catheter was inserted by means of a guidewire and positioned into the posterior pericardium, as near as possible to the atrioventricular groove. Complete drainage of pericardial fluid by percutaneous pericardiocentesis was obtained in 26 patients (89%). This procedure also allowed the evacuation of posterior and loculated effusions. Complications included two right ventricular punctures, which were immediately recognized by 2Decho contrast and produced no serious consequences. Sixteen patients who underwent surgical pericardiotomy had complete evacuation of pericardial fluid without major complications (two of them suffered atrial arrhythmias during the procedure). The average amount of fluid drained, as well as the localization of the effusions, were the same for both groups. 2D-echo-guided pericardiocentesis was found to be a useful, safe, and simple technique. It can be used as an alternative treatment to subxiphoid pericardiotomy for cardiac tamponade due to postoperative pericardial effusions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)178-183
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Cardiothoracic and Vascular Anesthesia
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1993


  • cardiac tamponade
  • pericardial effusion
  • pericardiocentesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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