Cardiac tamponade is a serious medical condition in which blood or fluids fill the space between the sac that encases the heart and the heart muscle. This places extreme pressure on your heart. The pressure prevents the heart’s ventricles from expanding fully and keeps your heart from functioning properly. Your heart can’t pump enough blood to the rest of your body when this happens. This can lead to organ failure, shock, and even death.
Cardiac tamponade is a medical emergency. If you or someone you know begins experiencing symptoms, seek medical help immediately.
What Causes Cardiac Tamponade?
Cardiac tamponade is usually the result of penetration of the pericardium, which is the thin, double-walled sac that surrounds your heart. The cavity around your heart can fill with enough blood or other bodily fluids to compress your heart. As the fluid presses on your heart, less and less blood can enter. Less oxygen-rich blood is pumped to the rest of your body as a result. The lack of blood getting to the heart and the rest of your body can eventually cause shock, organ failure, and cardiac arrest.
The causes of pericardial penetration or fluid accumulation might include:
- gunshot or stab wounds
- blunt trauma to the chest from a car or industrial accident
- accidental perforation after cardiac catheterization, angiography, or insertion of a pacemaker
- punctures made during placement of a central line, which is a type of catheter that administers fluids or medications
- cancer that has spread to the pericardial sac, such as breast or lung cancer
- a ruptured aortic aneurysm
- pericarditis, an inflammation of the pericardium
- lupus, an inflammatory disease in which the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissues
- high levels of radiation to the chest
- hypothyroidism, which increases the risk for heart disease
- a heart attack
- kidney failure
- infections that affect the heart
What Are the Symptoms of Cardiac Tamponade?
Cardiac tamponade has the following symptoms:
- anxiety and restlessness
- low blood pressure
- chest pain radiating to your neck, shoulders, or back
- trouble breathing or taking deep breaths
- rapid breathing
- discomfort that’s relieved by sitting or leaning forward
- fainting, dizziness, and loss of consciousness