Pericardiocentesis

Treating Cardiovascular Diseases in Wisconsin and Northern Illinois

Pericardiocentesis is an invasive procedure whereby your doctor will use a needle and a small thin catheter (a small hollow tube) to remove an abnormal collection of fluid from the sac that surrounds your heart. This sac is called the pericardial sac. 

A pericardiocentesis procedure is sometimes done to see if you have any signs of infection or possibly cancer.

Normally there is a very small amount of fluid in the pericardial sac. If the amount of fluid increases due to some illness or disease process, this can cause symptoms of shortness of breath and other problems. Your doctor may also do a pericardiocentesis to help relieve these symptoms.

What to Expect during the Pericardiocentesis Procedure 

Pericardiocentesis usually takes less than 45 minutes to perform. When you enter the cath lab, you will be in your hospital gown. We will give you warm blankets to help keep you comfortable. You will lie on a narrow table. Safety straps will be placed around you to help keep you safe.

We will elevate your chest and head on a special pillow and attach EKG patches to your chest so that we can monitor your heartbeat during the procedure. We may clip hair from your chest if necessary for the procedure. Next, we will wash your chest area where the doctor will be working. Your blood pressure will also be checked at intervals. 

You may receive a mild sedative to help you relax, but you will remain awake and conscious during the procedure.  The doctor will numb the area on your chest where he/she will be placing the needle and inserting the small catheter. You may feel a slight stinging sensation when you are given the numbing medicine, but this will go away shortly. The physician will also have echocardiography done at the same time that the pericardiocentesis is done.  This will help the doctor determine exactly where the collection of fluid is located in the pericardial sac.

What to Expect after the Procedure

Following the procedure, you may or may not have the catheter removed. Sometimes the small catheter is left in place to drain any additional fluid that might collect in the pericardial sac. At other times the doctor may remove the catheter at the end of the procedure. We will then place a small bandage over the puncture site to help keep it clean. You will then be returned to your room. 

Nationally Recognized for Heart Procedures

Aurora doctors are located throughout eastern Wisconsin and northeastern Illinois. Find a doctor or heart specialist near you. To get a second opinion or if you need assistance finding a provider, please call 888-649-6892.