Thoracoscopic partial pericardiectomy in the diagnosis and management of pericardial effusion


Background: An effort was made to present our experience with thoracoscopy in the diagnosis and management of pericardial effusions.

Methods: Twenty-two partial pericardiectomies were performed with the thoracoscopic approach in patients with pericardial effusions, the etiology of which was uremic (n= 7), neoplastic (n= 8), idiopathic (n= 5), septicemia (n= 1), and postpericardiotomy (n= 1). All cases had grade III-IV/IV radiological cardiomegaly and ultrasonographic confirmation of the effusion. We found hemodynamic compromise in 17 patients. The operation, requiring the insertion of three trocars, enabled us to remove a large part (approximately 6 × 10 cm) of the left anterolateral side of the pericardium and aspirate the effusion contents for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes.

Results: In five cases we found coexisting pleural effusions. The pericardial effusion had a mean volume of 817 ml, which was serous in 11 cases, hematic in six, serohematic in four, and purulent in one. Cytology of the pericardial effusion was positive for neoplasia in four cases (one pulmonary neoplasia, two breast carcinomas, and one lymphoma). We observed conversion to grade I/IV cardiomegaly in 16 cases and a return to normality in the other six, with the absence of ultrasonographic effusion in all cases. There was no recurrence during the mean follow-up period of 20.5 months (range: 2–47).

Conclusions: The thoracoscopic management of pericardial effusions is a simple and effective technique that allows us to create a large pericardial window that drains the effusion definitively, determines its etiology, and explores and treats coexisting pleural lesions, all without recurrences.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Author information



Additional information

Received: 30 May 1996/Accepted: 27 August 1996

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Robles, R., Piñero, A., Luján, J. et al. Thoracoscopic partial pericardiectomy in the diagnosis and management of pericardial effusion. Surg Endosc 11, 253–256 (1997).

Download citation

  • Key words: Pericardial effusions — Pericardial window — Partial pericardiectomy — Thoracoscopy — Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery