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Cardiac tamponade: an educational review.

Cardiac tamponade is a pericardial syndrome characterised by an impairment of the diastolic filling of the ventricles causing reduction of cardiac output, usually producing signs and symptoms of cardiac arrest, if untreated. The main causes of cardiac tamponade include percutaneous cardiac interventions, malignacies, infectious/inflammatory causes, mechanical complications of myocardial infarction and aortic dissection. The diagnosis of cardiac tamponade is a clinical diagnosis based on a suggestive history and clinical presentation with worsening dyspnoea, distended jugular veins, muffled heart sounds and pulsus paradoxus, and should be confirmed by echocardiography. Cardiac tamponade is a life-threatening syndrome that requires urgent treatment by pericardiocentesis. Pericardiocentesis is an interventional technique to drain pericardial fluid by a percutaneous route. The standard technique for pericardiocentesis is guided by echocardiography or fluoroscopy under local anaesthesia. Pericardiocentesis should be performed by experienced operators and carries a variable risk of complications, mainly cardiac chamber puncture, arrhythmias (ventricular arrhythmias suggest puncture of the ventricle), coronary artery puncture or haemothorax, pneumothorax, pneumopericardium and hepatic injury. The prognosis of cardiac tamponade is essentially related to aetiology. Cardiac tamponade in patients with cancer and metastatic involvement of the pericardium has a bad short-term prognosis because it is a sign of advanced cancer, on the contrary, patients with cardiac tamponade and a final diagnosis of idiopathic pericarditis generally have a good long-term prognosis.

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