Cardiac Tamponade

A Dangerous Cardiac Condition

Many different cardiac events can endanger your life. One of these cardiac events is Cardiac Tamponade. Cardiac Tamponade is a condition that you might encounter through an external force. This is a medical emergency and is fatal if not treated correctly.

What is Cardiac Tamponade

Cardiac Tamponade is pressure on the heart that occurs when blood or fluid builds up in the space between the heart muscle and outer covering sac of the heart. According to Medline a national library of medicine the cause of cardiac tamponade is from fluid collecting in the cardiac sac and preventing the ventricles to expand correctly. The problem is the blood will not properly circulate through the body.

Here are some of the causes of cardiac tamponade.

  • gunshot or stab wounds
  • blunt trauma to the chest from a car or industrial accident
  • accidental perforation after cardiac catheterization, angiography, or insertion of a pacemaker
  • punctures made during placement of a central line, which is a type of catheter that administers fluids or medications
  • cancer that has spread to the pericardial sac, such as breast or lung cancer
  • a ruptured aortic aneurysm
  • pericarditis, an inflammation of the pericardium
  • lupus, an inflammatory disease in which the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissues
  • high levels of radiation to the chest
  • hypothyroidism, which increases the risk for heart disease
  • a heart attack
  • kidney failure
  • infections that affect the heart

How Can you tell if someone is suffering from Cardiac Tamponade?

When someone is suffering from Cardiac Tamponade, the symptoms are similar to shock. The most common symptoms are as followed;

  • anxiety and restlessness
  • low blood pressure
  • weakness
  • chest pain radiating to your neck, shoulders, or back
  • trouble breathing or taking deep breaths
  • rapid breathing
  • discomfort that’s relieved by sitting or leaning forward
  • fainting, dizziness, and loss of consciousness

Most doctors identify Cardiac Tamponade through three signs known as Becks Triad they are as followed:

  • low blood pressure and weak pulse because the volume of blood your heart is pumping is reduced
  • extended neck veins because they’re having a hard time returning blood to your heart
  • a rapid heartbeat combined with muffled heart sounds due to the expanding layer of fluid inside your pericardium

The doctor can perform subsequent tests to confirm cardiac tamponade. That is an endocardiogram which is similar to an ultrasound of the heart. This will determine if the pericardium is distended and if the ventricles have collapsed due to low blood flow.

How is this treated

Cardiac Tamponade is a medical emergency and needs to be treated immediately. The first thing is to relieve pressure on the heart by draining the fluid around the heart. The second point treats the underline cause of the condition. In most cases, the cause intertwines with the symptoms. Your doctor will drain the fluid from your pericardial sac, typically with a needle. This procedure is called pericardiocentesis. Your doctor may perform a more invasive procedure called a thoracotomy to drain blood or remove blood clots if you have a penetrating wound. They may remove part of your pericardium to help relieve pressure on your heart.

As a first responder, you need to place the patient in a Trendelenburg position and keep within shock procedures. Then you need to transport to hospital as soon as possible. If possible, you need to maintain any bleeding anywhere from injury or secondary trauma. The Beating Heart Center can have you trained and confident in knowing how to respond in a medical emergency such as cardiac tamponade.