Preparing for your appointment

If your pericardial effusion is discovered as a result of a heart attack or other emergency, you won't have time to prepare for your appointment. Otherwise, you'll likely start by seeing your primary care provider. Or you might be referred immediately to a cardiologist.

What you can do

When you make the appointment, ask if there's anything you need to do in advance, such as fasting before a specific test. Make a list of:

  • Your symptoms, including any that seem unrelated to your heart or breathing
  • Key personal information, including major stresses, recent life changes and medical history
  • All medications, vitamins or supplements you take, including doses
  • Questions to ask your doctor

Take a family member or friend along, if possible, to help you remember the information you receive.

For pericardial effusion, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:

  • What's likely causing my symptoms?
  • What tests do I need?
  • Should I see a specialist?
  • How severe is my condition?
  • What's the best course of action?
  • I have other health conditions. How can I best manage these conditions together?
  • Are there brochures or other printed material I can have? What websites do you recommend?

What to expect from your doctor

Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions, including:

  • When did your symptoms begin?
  • Do you have symptoms all the time or do they come and go?
  • What, if anything, seems to improve your symptoms? For example, is your chest pain less severe when you sit and lean forward?
  • What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms? For example, are your symptoms worse when you're lying down? Are they worse when you're more active?