Surgical management of constrictive pericarditis

Ghana Med J. 2007 Dec;41(4):190-3. doi: 10.4314/gmj.v41i4.55290.


Summary background: Constrictive pericarditis is a disease characterized by marked thickening and dense scarring of the pericardium with pericardial sac obliteration, or calcification of the pericardium. Without treatment this disease is characterized by high morbidity and mortality.

Objective: To review the surgical management of constructive pericarditis and the post operative challenges.

Methods: Eleven patients who had pericardiectomy for constructive pericarditis between 2000 and 2005 were studied. Data was obtained from the operating theatre register, histopathological reports and patient's case notes.

Results: The mean age was 33 years with a range of 14 to 53 years. There were seven males (63.6%) and four females (36.4%). Seven (63.6%) out of the eleven patients operated were treated for pulmonary tuberculosis. The cause of pericardial constriction in four patients (36.4%) was undetermined. Follow up period was between 4-59 months. The mean follow up was 17.5 months. Seven patients (63.6%) were off diuretics and had no exercise intolerance. Patients were classified using the New York Heart Association (NYHA) n (NYHA) functional and therapeutic classification in class I-V. Two patients preoperatively in class III are now in class I after surgery on low dose diuretics. One patient who had calcific constrictive pericarditis and came in class III was now in class II with diuretics after 3 years of follow up. There was no postoperative mortality. One patient was lost to follow up.

Conclusion: Pericardiectomy is a useful procedure for constrictive pericarditis and was beneficial to all the patients in this study with an improvement in their functional capacity. Intensive peri-operative monitoring and management reduced morbidity and mortality.

Keywords: Constrictive pericarditis; pericardiectomy; pericardium.