When excess fluid collects inside the pericardial sac - due to pericarditis following heart surgery or a viral infection for example - this can result in severe impairment of heart function. If this occurs, the excess fluid will need to be aspirated using a procedure referred to as pericardiocentesis.

What is pericardiocentesis?

Pericardiocentesis is a procedure in which a needle is inserted through the skin in order to aspirate excess fluid from the pericardial sac. The procedure may be used for either diagnostic or treatment purposes.

What conditions can be treated using pericardiocentesis?

  • Diagnosis of pericardial effusion
  • Treatment of large pericardial effusions which may impact on the heart's ability to pump blood around the body (cardiac tamponade)

What happens during pericardiocentesis?

  • Pericardiocentesis is usually performed in our catheterization laboratory, and involves close monitoring of the patient's heart function, blood pressure and breathing.
  • A local anesthetic is usually sufficient. The safest access route to the pericardium is normally from below the breastbone, and the procedure is usually performed using ultrasound guidance to ensure that the needle is positioned correctly.
  • The aspirated fluid can then be tested for infectious organisms, as well as tumor cells and cells that are indicative of inflammatory processes. 
In case of a large pericardial effusion, a catheter can be left in place to ensure the pericardial space is completely drained of fluid.
Relevant information

Emergency numbers

  • Emergencies only:
    Our emergency room:
    +49 3338-69 45 21

Contact person

  • Univ.-Prof. Dr. med.
    Christian Butter
    Head of the Department of Cardiology, Immanuel Hospital Bernau Brandenburg Heart Center

    PA to Head of Department Christine Meinecke
    Immanuel Hospital Bernau Brandenburg Heart Center
    Ladeburger Str. 17
    16321 Bernau bei Berlin
    T +49 3338 694-610
    F +49 3338 694-644
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