The pericardial window: is a video-assisted thoracoscopy approach better than a surgical approach?

Interact Cardiovasc Thorac Surg. 2011 Feb;12(2):174-8. doi: 10.1510/icvts.2010.243725. Epub 2010 Nov 16.


Objectives: The approach to the pericardial window in patients with pericardial effusion (PE) remains undefined as to whether a surgical (transthoracic or subxiphoid) or a thoracoscopic pericardial window is the optimal operative approach to PE. We hypothesized that the window into the pleural space created by the thoracoscopy might improve the outcome.

Methods: We conducted a prospective study between September 2007 and October 2009. All patients with PE diagnosed by echocardiography who attended the Cardiothoracic Department in King Fahd Hospital are included in this study. They were 30 patients (18 males, 12 females aged 44±1.22 years). Patients were subdivided into two groups. Group A, 15 patients underwent the surgical (transthoracic or subxiphoid) procedure and Group B, 15 patients underwent the video-assisted thoracoscopy procedure. Preoperative, intraoperative and postoperative variables, morbidity, recurrence, and survival were compared in both groups.

Results: Preoperative variables were well-matched for age, sex, preoperative tamponade, echocardiographical characteristics and co-morbidities between both groups. No recurrence of effusion was observed in the two groups. Operative time was statistically highly significant (P<0.001); it was longer in Group B. There was no intraoperative complication in both groups. There was no postoperative complication in both groups except one case of superficial wound infection in Group A. There was no significance difference between both groups as regard duration of chest tube drainage and length of hospital stay. There was no in-hospital mortality in both groups.

Conclusions: Pericardial window by video-assisted thoracoscopy is an effective technique for pericardial drainage and biopsy. Apart from its diagnostic value, it allows the physician to fashion a pleuropericardial window for effective drainage while avoiding the complications of classic surgical procedures.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Echocardiography, Doppler
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pericardial Effusion / diagnostic imaging
  • Pericardial Effusion / mortality
  • Pericardial Effusion / surgery*
  • Pericardial Window Techniques*
  • Postoperative Complications / mortality
  • Postoperative Complications / physiopathology
  • Preoperative Care / methods
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Survival Analysis
  • Thoracic Surgery, Video-Assisted / methods*
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome