Cardiac tamponade occurs when extra fluid forms in the middle of the chest.
This fluid causes physical pressure against the chest wall, causing it to contract.
A fibrous sack-like sac known as the pericardial sac surrounds the heart (see figure). The fluid hinders friction between the lining and outer layers of the cardiac walls when they pass as the heart is pumping. The pericardial sac contains a valve that opens and closes with the heartbeat. If the valve is not working properly or if the muscle that controls it weakens, fluid may accumulate in the middle of the chest wall.
When this condition is detected, doctors will check the flow of blood through the arteries to the chambers in the chest. They can also listen for unusual sounds or pain, which indicate the presence of fluid in the middle of the chest. This is usually caused by aortic stenosis, a narrowing of the passageway leading to the chambers of the heart (the heart valves) in the lower left side of the chest. When this narrowing occurs, the amount of blood that passes through the coronary arteries is limited, thus resulting in a build up of fluid.
The buildup of fluid usually occurs on one side of the chest or both sides of the chest at the same time. The most common symptom is chest pain that gets worse when one bends over or raises their arm. A lumpy feel also develops in the chest, sometimes described as being like cottage cheese.
Some people even experience nausea during this episode. In some cases, the patient may feel uncomfortable because the fluid in the area surrounding the heart seems to be leaking into the chest cavity.
During the episode, doctors are required to do a physical examination of the chest. Sometimes they will need to remove the patient’s spleen to make sure that the fluid does not travel to another part of the body. If the spleen has been removed, doctors may take an x-ray to determine whether fluid is still being produced in the area.
Symptoms of this condition usually disappear in about two to four hours, although they may continue to linger for several days. If they become severe, the patient may have problems breathing, difficulty swallowing or vomiting. , as well as increased levels of anxiety or shortness of breath. in the chest. The condition may even cause headaches and dizziness. The patient should also consider calling 911 immediately if they experience any other symptoms, because cardiac tamponade is a life threatening.
If these symptoms persist for more than a few days, it is best to get medical attention right away. If the symptoms do not improve after getting medical attention, they should be seen by a doctor to rule out a more serious problem such as congestive heart failure.
These episodes should be monitored by a hospital-based cardiologist to prevent further complications.
If the condition becomes severe, doctors may recommend medical treatment to open the pericardial sac. This may involve surgery to break the sac and allow more blood to circulate through it. If surgery is performed, doctors may also prescribe medications such as angiotensin II inhibitors, which reduce calcium levels in the blood. This could also cause temporary or permanent damage to the heart muscles.
The patient may also be prescribed medications such as anti-angiotensin II inhibitors, which are designed to lower blood pressure and prevent calcium from accumulating in the arteries. If the condition is severe, doctors may also prescribe medications to prevent the recurrence of the episodes. In most cases, these medications have no side effects.
Some patients have found relief using natural treatment options. Drinking plenty of water and eating foods that are rich in calcium may help keep the heart muscles healthy. Taking herbs such as echinacea may also help relieve the symptoms of cardiac tamponade.
Unfortunately, more severe symptoms of cardiac tamponade may require immediate hospitalization. The earlier that it is treated, the better the chances of keeping it from recurring.