Pericardial sclerosis as the primary management of malignant pericardial effusion and cardiac tamponade

E. A. Maher, F. A. Shepherd, T. J R Todd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

95 Scopus citations


Objective: The management of malignant pericardial effusion remains controversial. We present our experience with 93 patients referred for drainage and sclerosing procedures between 1979 and 1994. Methods: With continuous electrocardiographic monitoring, a Kifa catheter was inserted percutaneously into the pericardial sac and allowed to drain. A 100 mg dose of lidocaine hydrochloride was instilled intrapericardially, followed by 500 to 1000 mg tetracycline or doxycycline hydrochloride in 20 to 50 ml normal saline solution. The catheter was clamped for 1 to 2 hours and then reopened, and the procedure was repeated daily until the net drainage was less than 25 ml in 24 hours. Results: Subjects included 53 women and 40 men (median age 58 years). Eight patients could not undergo sclerosis because of technical failure. Eighty-five patients underwent sclerosis and required a median dose of 1500 mg of the sclerosing agent (range 500 to 700 mg), given in a median of three injections (range one to eight). Complications included pain (17 patients), atrial arrhythmias (eight patients), fever with temperature greater than 38.5°C (seven patients), and infection (one patient). Two patients had cardiac arrest before sclerosis could be attempted. Sixty-eight patients (73%) had the effusion controlled for longer than 30 days, for an overall control rate of 81%. Seven other patients had control of the effusion but died of progressive malignant disease in less than 30 days. The overall median survival was 98 days (range 1 to 1724 days). Comparison of these results with outcomes reported for patients with malignant pericardial effusion who underwent surgical drainage indicates that drainage and sclerosis provide similar survivals but sclerosis carries lower morbidity, mortality, and recurrence rates. Conclusion: Percutaneous drainage and sclerosis constitutes a safe and effective treatment for malignant pericardial effusion. Surgical management should be reserved for the small percentage of cases that cannot be controlled by this method.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)637-643
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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