Objective: To describe the range of clinical manifestations and the outcome of pericardial tamponade in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
Methods: Patients with pericarditis and with pericardial tamponade were identified from our computerized database of 395 SLE patients. Medical records were reviewed to establish activity of SLE at the time of tamponade, as well as clinical and laboratory features, treatment, and outcome of the tamponade.
Results: Pericarditis occurred in 75 patients (19%), with 11 episodes of tamponade in 10 of them (13%; 2.5% of entire series). Tamponade was the initial manifestation of SLE in 4 patients. Seven episodes occurred during active lupus, with nephritis present in 6. Signs of venous congestion, including ascites and facial or peripheral edema, were the most common manifestation of tamponade. Pericardial fluid was exudative, and pericardial tissue demonstrated a range of findings including fibrinous and fibrotic changes, acute and chronic inflammatory infiltrates, and vascular proliferation. Tamponade was fatal in 1 patient, and 2 patients each had recurrent effusions and pericardial thickening.
Conclusion: Pericardial tamponade may occur at any point in the course of SLE, and should be considered in patients with unexplained signs of venous congestion. The differential diagnosis includes active SLE, uremia, and infection. Treatment with high-dose steroids and either pericardiocentesis or placement of a pericardial window is indicated, but recurrent effusions or pericardial thickening may develop.