Pericardial effusion and tamponade

Revision as of 00:18, 20 August 2017 by Kxl328 (talk | contribs) (Hemorrhagic Tamponade)


  • Always consider in patient with PEA
  • Always consider in patient with myocardial stab wound (80% result in tamponade)
    • GSW is less likely to result in tamponade b/c pericardial defect is larger
  • Pathophysiology
    • Increased pericardial pressure > decreased RV filling > decreased CO


  • Hemopericardium
    • Trauma
    • Iatrogenic (misplaced central line)
    • Bleeding diathesis
    • Ventricular rupture (post-MI)
  • Non-hemopericardium

Differential Diagnosis

Chest pain




Clinical Features

  • Chest pain, shortness of breath, cough, fatigue
  • CHF-type appearance
  • Narrow pulse pressure
  • Friction rub
  • Pulsus paradoxus (dec in BP on inspiration)
  • Beck's Triad (33% of patients)
    • Hypotension, muffled heart sounds, JVD



  • Pericardial effusion
    • In acute cases, even a relatively small build up of pericardial fluid can lead to hemodynamic compromise
    • Differentiate pericardial effusion from pleural effusion using the parasternal long axis view. Pericardial effusions will have an anechoic stripe between the left atrium and descending thoracic aorta. In a pleural effusion, the stripe will be seen behind the descending thoracic aorta.[1]
  • Classical ultrasound findings
    • Diastolic collapse of the right atrium (in atrial diastole)
    • Diastolic collapse of the right ventricle
    • Plethoric IVC
  • Evaluating systolic vs. diastolic phases with M-mode
    • Position in PSL view with M-mode line through where RV appears to collapse
    • Allow M-mode line to pass through where the anterior MV hits the septum in diastole (much like evaluation of EPSS - see Formal echocardiography)
RV Collapse M mode.JPG
  • Valvular pulsus parodoxus
    • Doppler interrogation across the mitral valve will demonstrate exaggerated respiratory variability of transvalvular flow
    • MV inflow respiratory variation, difference from highest velocity to lowest, as a percentage of highest velocity[2]
      • > 25%, likely tamponade physiology
      • > 40% for tricuspid inflow variation
      • Helpful in thickened RV and RA from longstanding pulmonary hypertensive patients
MV inflow variation.JPG


  • Can be normal
  • Tachycardia (bradycardia is ominous finding)
  • Electrical alternans
  • Low voltage
    • All limb lead QRS amplitudes <5 mm or I+II+III<15;[3]
    • OR All precordial QRS amplitudes <10 mm or V1+V2+V3<30


  • Enlarged cardiac silhouette

Pulsus Paradoxus

  • >10mmHg change in systolic BP on inspiration


Hemorrhagic Tamponade

Non-hemorrhagic Tamponade


  • Admit with cardiology/CT surgery consult

See Also


  1. Randazzo MR et al. Acad Emerg Med, 2003. PMID: 12957982
  2. Rajagopalan N, Garcia MJ, Rodriguez L, Murray RD, Apperson-Hansen C, Stugaard M, Thomas JD, and Klein AL. Comparison of new Doppler echocardiographic methods to differentiate constrictive pericardial heart disease and restrictive cardiomyopathy. Am J Cardiol. 2001 Jan 1;87(1):86-94.
  3. Mattu A, Brady W. ECGs for the Emergency Physician 2, BMJ Books 2008.