University Health Care System
(706) 722-9011

Pericardiocentesis

University Hospital is pleased to offer Fast Track, a convenient online pre-registration service. Registering with Fast Track will allow us to verify all demographic and insurance information prior to your visit, so that all of your paperwork is completed and your wait time is decreased. You may use Fast Track if your physician has scheduled you for this procedure or test. Please register two business days prior to your hospital visit. You also may call 706/774-2125 to pre-register if you prefer. Please report to registration on the Heart & Vascular Institute's first floor at your scheduled check-in time. 

Where do I park?

Patients and visitors can park in the Heart & Vascular Institute's dedicated flat parking lot off St. Sebastian Way. If you need wheelchair assistance, please park in the main hospital parking deck. 

Patient Instructions

  • Be prepared to stay at the hospital three to four hours. The time of your arrival is not the time for your procedure. Arriving earlier does not ensure a shorter wait. The prep time is 45 minutes to one hour. It may be shorter if your physician had all the pre-procedure work-up done, including blood work, EKG, history and physical, and consent form signed for the procedure. We diligently strive to stay on schedule but a delay in the case ahead of yours or an emergency can cause increased wait time. On rare occasions you might need to remain in the hospital, if the physician decides to continue close observation on you.
  • Follow your physician's instructions on what medications to take. If you are diabetic, ask the office if you should take your  medications.
  • Bring a list of all medications you are currently taking, including insulin, vitamins and herbal preparations.
  • If you are taking the medication Glucophage (Metformin) or a blood thinner (Coumadin or Warfarin), let your doctor know as the dose may be held or adjusted.
  • Have an adult come to the hospital with you to drive you home if possible. You will be able to drive yourself. Arrange for a responsible adult to help you at home for 24 hours.
  • Wear comfortable clothing.
  • Leave all jewelry and money at home.
  • You may wear your eyeglasses, hearing aids and dentures.
  • Please DO NOT bring small children.

The day of your procedure

Please check in with the registration staff. After the registration process is finished, the CVPR room nurse will transport you to the fifth floor where the CVPR room is located. There is a small waiting room for your visitors to wait during the procedure. You will be asked to disrobe from the waist up and put on a gown. The nurse will apply electrodes to monitor your heart and other equipment to monitor your vital signs. The nurse will have you lie on the table until the physician arrives, and then you will sit up to allow the physician to get to your back to perform the procedure.

The room is typically kept warm but the temperature can be increased and blankets provided as needed. Your family (one to three members) may remain with you until the physician arrives. If more are present, they will be asked to wait in the waiting room just down the hallway from the procedure room.

What is a pericardiocentesis?

It is a procedure to drain fluid from the pericardial sac that surrounds the heart.

What happens in a pericardiocentesis?

The physician and other staff members will wear a gown, gloves, and mask to perform the procedure. The skin will be cleansed with an antiseptic solution, and the physician will inject a "numbing" medication into the surrounding skin. A needle is inserted under the lower edge of the ribs into the pericardium (the sac around the heart) to drain fluid. The physician may also use an X-ray or ultrasound probe to aid in guiding the placement of the needle into the heart sac. A plastic catheter is inserted into the sac to allow fluid to be removed. One hundred to 1500ml of fluid is removed and sent to the laboratory for testing. Results will be sent to your physician in one to three days. After the fluid is drained, the physician will either remove the catheter or leave it in overnight. If the physician leaves the catheter in overnight, you will need to stay in the hospital for observation. Additional fluid may be drained the following day. The catheter will be removed by your physician. After the catheter is removed, you should wait 24 hours to shower, and the area should be kept dry.

What happens after I go home?

You will need to take it easy for one to two days (no heavy lifting or exercise), and report any symptoms of chest discomfort to your doctor. You may not shower until the physician tells you it is okay. A tub bath is fine as long as the dressing is kept dry. The physician who performed the procedure or your primary physician will notify you of any test results. Please call the doctor's office if you have not been called within one week.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will I be asleep for the procedure?
No. You will receive a small injection and a local anesthetic agent. You will be asked to lie on the table during the procedure to allow the physician access to your chest and abdominal area. You will be sleepy and should not feel any pain. Let the physician or nurse know if you experience any unusual symptoms, shortness of breath or pain.

How long will the procedure last?
It will take 30-45 minutes to register, and the procedure takes 30-45 minutes. You may need to stay longer if you are still weak. If the catheter is left in overnight, the physician will require that you stay in the hospital until the catheter is taken out.

Will the fluid come back?
Usually the fluid will not re-accumulate. The physician will have you follow up with him or her or your regular doctor. Please report any shortness of breath, dull ache or pressure in the chest, hoarseness, hiccups or nausea. The physician will need to be made aware of any of these symptoms as they could signal a re-accumulation of fluid in the heart sac.

Thank you for choosing University Health Care System.
We hope your experience with us is an excellent one.

AWARDS AND RECOGNITION

  
     
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1350 Walton Way, Augusta, Georgia
(706) 722-9011