What is the role of CT scanning in the workup of 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

CT scanning can potentially determine the composition of fluid and may detect as little as 50mL of fluid. This modality can also detect pericardial calcifications, which can be indicative of constrictive pericarditis.

CT scanning results in fewer false-positive findings than echocardiography. However, it can be problematic in patients who are unstable, given the amount of time required to transport them to and from the scanner and to perform the test.

Certain classic CT signs of tamponade have also been described, such as dilated venae cavae, reflux of contrast into the azygos vein and inferior vena cava, deformity or compression of the cardiac chambers, and bowing of the interventricular septum. [24]


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