Cardiac tamponade : Symptoms & Signs, Diagnosis & Tests

Symptoms & Signs

  • Anxiety, restlessness
  • Chest pain
    • Radiating to the neck, shoulder, back, or abdomen
    • Sharp, stabbing
    • Worsened by deep breathing or coughing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Discomfort, sometimes relieved by sitting upright or leaning forward
  • Fainting, light-headedness
  • Pale, gray, or blue skin
  • Palpitations
  • Rapid breathing
  • Swelling of the abdomen or other areas

Additional symptoms that may be associated with this disease:

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Low blood pressure
  • Weak or absent pulse

Diagnosis & Tests

There are no specific laboratory tests that diagnose tamponade. Echocardiogram is the first choice to help establish the diagnosis.

Signs:

  • Blood pressure may fall (pulsus paradoxical) when the person inhales deeply
  • Breathing may be rapid (faster than 12 breaths in an adult per minute)
  • Heart rate may be over 100 (normal is 60 to 100 beats per minute)
  • Heart sounds faint during examination with a stethoscope
  • Neck veins may be abnormally extended (distended) but the blood pressure may be low
  • Peripheral pulses may be weak or absent

Other tests may include:

  • Chest CT or MRI of chest
  • Chest x-ray
  • Coronary angiography
  • ECG


Review Date : 5/15/2008
Reviewed By : Robert A. Cowles, MD, Assistant Professor of Surgery, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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