Background: Cardiac tamponade has been reported in 18.7% of patients with acute type A aortic dissection and its presence is associated with worse outcomes. Emergency aortic repair together with intra-operative pericardial drainage is the recommended treatment approach. However, controversy surrounds how to manage patients with haemopericardium and cardiac tamponade who cannot survive until surgery.
Purpose: To describe a case series of patients with critical cardiac tamponade complicating aortic dissection admitted to a hospital without cardiothoracic surgery, and in whom preoperative controlled pericardial drainage was performed.
Methods and results: Single centre retrospective study: during a nine-year period, 21 patients with Stanford type A aortic dissection were admitted at our centre; six of them (28.6%) presented clinical and echocardiographic signs of cardiac tamponade (four males; mean age 58±17 years). In this subgroup, controlled pericardiocentesis was safely performed with no major immediate complications and it was effective in five patients, improving haemodynamic instability and allowing transfer to the operating room.
Conclusions: Preoperative controlled pericardiocentesis can be lifesaving when managing patients with critical cardiac tamponade (pulseless electrical activity or refractory hypotension) complicating acute type A aortic dissection, namely when cardiac surgery is not immediately available.
Keywords: Aortic dissection; cardiac tamponade; pericardiocentesis.
© The European Society of Cardiology 2014.