Pericardial effusion

Normal heart and heart with pericardial effusion

In a normal heart, a thin layer called the pericardium surrounds and protects the heart. There is a small amount of fluid between the pericardium and the heart. This fluid helps cushion the heart.

But sometimes too much fluid builds up in this space around the heart. This is called pericardial effusion. This extra fluid puts pressure on the heart and can cause chest pain and serious heart problems.

Current as of: December 16, 2019

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: Rakesh K. Pai, MD - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine
Stephen Fort, MD, MRCP, FRCPC - Interventional Cardiology

Is it an emergency?

If you or someone in your care has chest pains, difficulty breathing, or severe bleeding, it could be a life-threatening emergency. Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number immediately.
If you are concerned about a possible poisoning or exposure to a toxic substance, call Poison Control now at 1-800-567-8911.

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