What is a pericardial effusion?
The pericardium is the sac that encloses the heart. A pericardial effusion is an abnormal accumulation of fluid in the pericardial cavity. Because it is a small space with normally only up to 50ml of fluid present, a large effusion causes increased pressure in that space compromising heart function. When severe and causing right heart chamber collapse, it is known as cardiac tamponade and is a surgical emergency. Symptoms may include shortness of breath, chest pain, and low blood pressure.