What causes pericardial effusion?

Updated: Nov 28, 2018
  • Author: William J Strimel, DO, FACP; Chief Editor: Terrence X O'Brien, MD, MS, FACC  more...
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Answer

The cause of abnormal fluid production depends on the underlying etiology, but it is usually secondary to injury or insult to the pericardium (ie, pericarditis). Transudative fluids result from obstruction of fluid drainage, which occurs through lymphatic channels. Exudative fluids occur secondary to inflammatory, infectious, malignant, or autoimmune processes within the pericardium.

In up to 60% of cases, pericardial effusion is related to a known or suspected underlying process. Therefore, the diagnostic approach should give strong consideration to coexisting medical conditions.

Idiopathic

In many cases, the underlying cause is not identified. However, this often relates to the lack of extensive diagnostic evaluation.


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