Congenital Absence of the Pericardium

Prog Cardiovasc Dis. 2017 Jan-Feb;59(4):398-406. doi: 10.1016/j.pcad.2016.12.002. Epub 2016 Dec 9.


Congenital absence of the pericardium (CAP) is one of the rarest cardiac congenital anomalies. It can occur as a complete absence of the entire pericardium, absence of the right or left portion of the pericardium or a partial, foramen-like defect of the right or left pericardium. While the majority of cases are clinically silent, multiple reports associate CAP with symptomatic presentation. The most feared complication of CAP is sudden death due to cardiac strangulation across a partial defect of the left pericardium. Given its rare occurrence, most clinicians and imaging specialists will have little experience with this condition and may fail to recognize it on thoracic or cardiac studies. Thus, the purpose of this review is to highlight the common clinical and multimodality imaging features associated with this anomaly and suggest a management algorithm.

Keywords: Cardiac CT; Cardiac MRI; Cardiac herniation; Congenital absence of the pericardium; Echocardiography; Partial pericardial defect.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Diagnostic Errors / prevention & control*
  • Disease Management
  • Heart Defects, Congenital* / diagnosis
  • Heart Defects, Congenital* / physiopathology
  • Heart Defects, Congenital* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Multimodal Imaging / methods*
  • Pericardium* / abnormalities
  • Pericardium* / diagnostic imaging