Therapeutic pericardiocentesis in the dog and cat

Clin Tech Small Anim Pract. 2005 Aug;20(3):151-5. doi: 10.1053/j.ctsap.2005.05.002.


Pericardial effusion is a potentially life-threatening problem leading to a rise in the intrapericardial pressure resulting in varying degrees of hemodynamic compromise. Cardiac tamponade occurs when the intrapericardial pressure equals or exceeds right ventricular diastolic filling pressures leading to a decreased cardiac output. In dogs, the most common causes of pericardial effusion that require pericardiocentesis are cardiac neoplasia and idiopathic pericardial effusion (IPE). The incidence of cardiac neoplasia in dogs is low, and it is rare in cats. In dogs, hemangiosarcoma and chemodectoma are the two most common types of cardiac neoplasia. In cats, lymphosarcoma is the most common form of cardiac neoplasia, but they are more likely to develop pericardial effusion secondary to congestive heart failure or feline infectious peritonitis. Common histories include lethargy, dyspnea, anorexia, collapse, and abdominal distension. Pericardiocentesis is used to stabilize animals with life-threatening cardiac tamponade, relieve the pressure leading to right-sided heart failure, and obtain fluid samples for diagnostic evaluation. The fluid should be quantified and characterized. Serious complications associated with pericardiocentesis are rare. Complications include cardiac puncture, arrhythmias, and laceration of a tumor or coronary artery resulting in intrapericardial hemorrhage or sudden death.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cat Diseases / diagnostic imaging
  • Cat Diseases / pathology
  • Cat Diseases / surgery*
  • Cats
  • Dog Diseases / diagnostic imaging
  • Dog Diseases / pathology
  • Dog Diseases / surgery*
  • Dogs
  • Pericardial Effusion / surgery
  • Pericardial Effusion / veterinary*
  • Pericardiocentesis / veterinary*
  • Ultrasonography