Sudden death in early infancy due to delayed cardiac tamponade complicating central venous line insertion and cardiac catheterization

Arch Pathol Lab Med. 1992 Jun;116(6):654-6.


Cardiac tamponade is an unusual cause of sudden death in the first weeks of life. We present two cases of cardiac tamponade in the neonatal period that caused death 5 to 6 days following the insertion of intracardiac lines, to draw attention to the possibility of a "delay phenomenon" between the time of the initial procedure and the occurrence of sudden and unexpected death. The presence of blood or clear fluid within the pericardial sac should prompt careful examination of the myocardium for small foci of traumatic damage, particularly when the fluid is under pressure or of large volume. Although the development of circulatory impairment or shock in the days following central line insertion or catheterization raises the possibility of tamponade, it should be noted that sudden death may occur in the absence of any significant antemortem symptoms or signs.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Cardiac Catheterization / adverse effects*
  • Cardiac Tamponade / etiology*
  • Catheterization, Central Venous / adverse effects*
  • Death, Sudden / etiology*
  • Female
  • Heart Rupture / etiology*
  • Heart Rupture / pathology
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Myocardium / pathology
  • Time Factors