You can have significant pericardial effusion and experience no signs or symptoms, particularly if the fluid has increased slowly.
If pericardial effusion symptoms do occur, they may include:
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing (dyspnea)
- Discomfort when breathing while lying down (orthopnea)
- Chest pain, usually behind the breastbone or on the left side of the chest that often feels worse when you breathe and feels better when you are sitting up, rather than lying down
- Low-grade fever
- Rapid heart rate
When to see a doctor
Call 911 or your local emergency number if you feel chest pain that lasts more than a few minutes, if your breathing is difficult or painful, or if you have an unexplained fainting spell. If you experience shortness of breath, fatigue or other symptoms of pericardial effusion, see your doctor.
Aug. 01, 2013
- Hoit BD. Diagnosis and treatment of pericardial effusion. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed June 10, 2013.
- Khandaker MH, et al. Pericardial disease: Diagnosis and management. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 2010;85:572.
- Papadakis MA, et al. Current Medical Diagnosis & Treatment 2013. 52nd ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2013. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=1. Accessed June 10, 2013.
- Cardiopulmonary syndromes (PDQ). National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/supportivecare/cardiopulmonary/HealthProfessional. Accessed June 17, 2013.
- Sagrista-Sauleda J, et al. Diagnosis and management of pericardial effusion. World Journal of Cardiology. 2011;3:135.
- Fuster V, ed. et al. Hurst's The Heart. 13th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2011. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=5. Accessed June 10, 2013.
- Imazio M. Contemporary management of pericardial diseases. Current Opinion in Cardiology. 2012;27:308.
You Are ... The Campaign for Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit organization. Make a difference today.