Neoplastic Pericardial Effusion: A Monocentric Retrospective Study

J Palliat Med. 2019 Jun;22(6):691-695. doi: 10.1089/jpm.2018.0491. Epub 2019 Mar 19.


Background: Neoplastic pericardial effusion (NPE) is a life-threatening condition that can worsen clinical outcome in cancer patients. The optimal management of NPE has yet to be defined because randomized studies are lacking. Objective: We report a retrospective monoinstitutional experience describing characteristics, management and prognostic factors in NPE patients. Design: We reviewed clinical, pathological, and echocardiographic features, therapeutic strategies, and outcome in NPE patients referred to our institute from August 2011 to December 2017. Measurements: Twenty-nine patients with NPE from solid tumors have been identified: 21 lung, 5 breast, and 3 other cancer patients. Results: Median age was 62 years. Most of the patients had Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG) performance status (PS) ≥2 (69%) and a symptomatic NPE (69%). In 52% of patients NPE was detected at first diagnosis of metastatic disease, and in 20% of patients pericardium was the only site of metastases. Most of the patients (62%) received systemic therapy, 28% received combined locoregional and systemic therapy, and 10% received locoregional therapy alone. Median overall survival (OS) from NPE diagnosis was 3.9 months. Patients with PS ≥2 had worse OS than patients with better PS <2 (hazard ratio [HR] 3.56, IC 95% 1.19-10.65, p 0.02). Older age, extrapericardial disease, and NPE at progression showed a trend of association with worse OS. Patients treated with locoregional therapy alone showed the shortest median OS (p 0.05). Conclusions: NPE is related to dismal prognosis. Poor PS significantly worsens survival and influences therapeutic approaches. Randomized studies are required to investigate prognostic factors and appropriate clinical management for patients with NPE.

Keywords: locoregional treatment; neoplastic pericardial effusion; prognostic factors; systemic treatment.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / complications*
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Pericardial Effusion / etiology*
  • Pericardial Effusion / therapy*
  • Prognosis
  • Retrospective Studies