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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Diseases and Conditions > Cardiac Tamponade
      Category : Health Centers > Heart Diseases

Cardiac Tamponade

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

Cardiac tamponade is a build-up of fluid in the pericardium, which is the thin membrane around your heart. This build-up obstructs the flow of blood into your heart. And that means that the lower chambers of your heart, called the ventricles, cannot fill.

What is going on in the body?

The pericardium normally contains a very small amount of fluid. It plays an important role in the following ways:

  • It helps the upper chambers of your heart, called the atria, fill with blood while your heart is beating.
  • It maintains the position of your heart within the chest.
  • It minimizes friction between your heart and surrounding structures.
  • Chest trauma, such as a crush injury, can cause fluid to build up in the pericardium. The accumulated fluid consists of blood or other body fluids. When this fluid builds up around your heart, it restricts the ability of the ventricles to fill with blood. If the build-up of fluid occurs slowly over time, then large amounts of fluid can collect. However, if fluid collects suddenly, even small amounts may be fatal.

    What are the causes and risks of the condition?

    Cardiac tamponade can occur after any of the following events or conditions.

  • crush injury, such as a motor vehicle accident
  • infection
  • massive heart attack
  • surgery
  • tuberculosis
  • tumors
  • If the cardiac tamponade is not treated, you may die.


    Next section


    Cardiac Tamponade: Symptoms & Signs

    Author: Eric Berlin, MD
    Reviewer: Gail Hendrickson, RN, BS
    Date Reviewed: 05/04/01

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