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The pericardium is a two-layered sac surrounding the heart, with a small amount of fluid between the layers. When the pericardium is inflamed, effusion, the escape of fluid, can occur.
The condition also can occur without inflammation. Pericardial effusion can put pressure on the heart, impairing its ability to function properly. Without treatment, it can cause heart failure or death.
The pericardium can become inflamed due to injury, disease or another disorder. Inflammation can occur after heart surgery or a heart attack, or as a result of a viral, bacterial, fungal or parasitic infection. Other diseases and disorders that can cause pericardial effusion include:
Symptoms can mimic those of heart failure, including difficulty catching your breath, chest pain and coughing. Other symptoms include painful breathing, fever, rapid heart rate and fainting. Some people do not have symptoms.
Tests to diagnose pericardial effusion include:
Treatment of pericardial effusion depends on the extent of fluid accumulated and how likely it is to impair heart functioning.
Medications to treat pericardial effusion include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), aspirin and corticosteroids.
Procedures to treat pericardial effusion focus on removing excess fluid and preventing it from accumulating in the future.
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