Pericardiocentesis, also known as pericardial drainage, is essentially performed in order to identify the root cause of fluid build up around the heart and to relieve the pressure on the heart. The procedure is an invasive one that requires a needle and catheter to remove the building fluid. This fluid is then usually sent over to the labs for testing to identify the presence of infection or cancer.
The procedure is also performed on an emergency basis in order to treat a severe condition known as cardiac tamponade which is life threatening, because it reduces the pumping ability of the heart. This fluid buildup can be caused by a number o factors such as rheumatoid arthritis, heart attack or even kidney failure. A pericardial tap is the most widely used medical procedure used in order to identify the root cause, thereby making treatment more effective. It should also be pointed out that the fluid build up could also be caused by drug use, autoimmune disorders and cancer.
As mentioned earlier, there are instances in which a pericardial tap is scheduled as an emergency procedure. In this event, there is a time constraint on the types of pre-surgical tests and examinations that can be performed on the patient. Under normal circumstances, however, there are a number of tests that may be required to be performed, again depending largely on the type of condition that you suffer from. Chest x-rays, blood tests, electrocardiogram and echocardiaograms are a commonplace in preparation for a pericardial tap. It is important that you have a lengthy conversation with your doctor and discuss the medicines that you are under in case you are required to temporarily cease their intake as it may interfere with the procedure. Blood thinners and anti inflammatory medication may need to be stopped as much as a week before the procedure. You may also be asked to restrict your fluid and food consumption before the procedure.
You will initially be asked to lie down on a table and a light sedative will be administered into your body by means of an IV line inserted into your arm. A needle will then be inserted into your chest and guided towards the heart with the help of an ultrasound or fluoroscopy until it is passed through the pericardial sac. The fluid will then be removed and collected before pressure is applied to the injection for a few minutes in order to stop the bleeding.