Pericardial Window

Pericardial Window

What is it?

A procedure in which an opening is made in the pericardium to drain fluid that has accumulated around the heart.

How does it work?

A pericardial window can be made via a small incision below the end of the breastbone (sternum) or via a small incision between the ribs on the left side of the chest.

Reasons for Pericardial Window

The indication for surgery is a pericardial effusion (fluid build-up). Surgery may be necessary to avoid cardiac tamponade.

The pericardial window procedure also permits a view of biopsy sites. Biopsies, or tissue samples, may be needed when pleural tumors occur. Pleural tumors may be benign (known as pleural plaques) or malignant.

What to expect

This surgery is performed with local anesthesia. An incision is made either below the sternum, or alternately between the ribs of the left chest.

Pericardial effusion has a variety of causes, including viral infection, cancer, renal disease, heart failure, hypothyroidism, and post cardiac surgery. A pericardial window is used both to provide a diagnosis and to improve heart function.

Depending on the underlying disease process, patients usually go home in two days.

St. Luke's Heart & Vascular