Pericardiocentesis versus pericardiotomy for malignant pericardial effusion: a retrospective comparison

C. Labbé, L. Tremblay, Y. Lacasse



Treatment of malignant pericardial effusion remains controversial, because no randomized controlled trials have been conducted to determine the best approach, and results of retrospective studies have been inconsistent. The objective of the present study was to compare pericardiocentesis and pericardiotomy with respect to efficacy for preventing recurrence, and to determine, for those two procedures, diagnostic yields, complication rates, and effects on survival. We also aimed to identify clinical and procedural factors that could predict effusion recurrence.


We retrospectively assessed 61 patients who underwent a procedure for treatment of a malignant pericardial effusion at the Institut universitaire de cardiologie et de pneumologie de Québec between February 2004 and September 2013.


Pericardiocentesis was performed in 42 patients, and pericardiotomy, in 19 patients. The effusion recurrence rate was significantly higher in patients treated with pericardiocentesis than with pericardiotomy (31.0% vs. 5.3%, p = 0.046). The diagnostic yield of the procedures was not significantly different (92.9% vs. 86.7%, p = 0.6). The overall rate of complications was similar in the two groups, as was the median overall survival (2.4 months vs. 2.6 months, p = 0.5). In univariate analyses, the procedure type was the only predictor of recurrence that approached statistical significance. Age, sex, type of cancer, presence of effusion at the time of cancer diagnosis, prior chest irradiation, tamponade upon presentation, and total volume of fluid removed did not influence the recurrence rate.


Compared with pericardiocentesis, pericardiotomy had higher success rate in preventing recurrence of malignant pericardial effusion, with similar diagnostic yields, complication rates, and overall survival. 



Malignant pericardial effusion; pericardiocentesis; pericardiotomy; recurrence; complications; diagnostic yield; survival

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ISSN: 1198-0052 (Print) ISSN: 1718-7729 (Online)