Pericardiocentesis is a medical procedure used to diagnose and treat certain types of heart conditions. It involves inserting a needle through the chest wall into the pericardial sac to extract fluid, diagnose an infection, or relieve pressure on the heart. It is a life-saving procedure and is the only valid treatment option in certain cases.


Patients undergoing pericardiocentesis must complete a series of tests beforehand, including laboratory tests, chest x-ray, electrocardiogram (ECG), and echocardiogram, to ensure the procedure is safe and necessary. Patients should also inform their doctor about any allergies they have and any medications they’re taking.


Pericardiocentesis is usually performed in a hospital or the patient’s doctor’ office. The patient may be given local anesthesia or conscious sedation beforehand to reduce discomfort during the procedure. The nurse will shave the area and clean it with antiseptic. The doctor will then locate the area with ultrasound or other imaging techniques before making a small incision in the chest wall. The needle is passed through the incision into the pericardial sac and. when done correctly, the needle should not leak any fluid.

Once the needle is inserted, the doctor will use a syringe to draw out the fluid. The sample will then be tested for any infection or to determine the cause of any related symptoms. If the fluid contains elevated levels of fats or proteins that should not be present, it can indicate an inflammatory condition or other problems. If the fluid needs to be drained to reduce pressure on the heart, the doctor may insert a drainage catheter.


  • Diagnostic pericardiocentesis – a needle is used to extract fluid, which is then analyzed to diagnose a heart condition.
  • Therapeutic pericardiocentesis – a needle is used to remove fluid to relieve pressure on the heart or to treat an infection.


Pericardiocentesis is a relatively safe procedure, although it does carry certain risks. As with any medical procedure, there is a risk of infection, bleeding, and pneumothorax. The doctor performing the procedure may also puncture the heart or lungs accidentally.

Why is it done?

Pericardiocentesis is often used to diagnose and treat certain heart conditions, such as pericarditis or pericardial effusion. It is also used to relieve pressure on the heart or lungs in cases of cardiac tamponade or pulmonary edema. It can also be used to drain fluid for diagnostic purposes.

When is it done?

Pericardiocentesis may be recommended when other treatments have not been effective. It is usually recommended when fluid is in the pericardial sac that is causing symptoms or is indicating a potential heart condition. It may also be used if the patient is at risk of cardiac tamponade or pulmonary edema.