Pericardial effusion after cardiac surgery: incidence, relation to the type of surgery, antithrombotic therapy, and early coronary bypass graft patency

Am Heart J. 1988 Jul;116(1 Pt 1):97-102. doi: 10.1016/0002-8703(88)90255-4.


To investigate the incidence and clinical significance of postoperative pericardial effusion (PE), the presence of PE was evaluated by echocardiography, 1 and 2 weeks postoperatively, in 50 patients after insertion of a valve prosthesis and in 100 patients after coronary bypass surgery (50 patients receiving a combination of aspirin and dipyridamole and 50 receiving warfarin). PE was found during either procedure in 77% of patients and was marked in 29%. Symptoms of postpericardiotomy syndrome (p less than 0.05), pericardial friction rub (p less than 0.01), atrial arrhythmias (p less than 0.05), cardiac enlargement (p less than 0.01), and pleural effusion (p less than 0.05) were detected more frequently in patients with PE than in those without PE. PE was not related to the type of antithrombotic therapy, the rate of coronary bypass graft occlusion, or the type of cardiac surgery. However, the use of the left internal mammary artery as a coronary bypass graft was associated with a slightly higher incidence of PE (p less than 0.05). One patient (0.7%) required surgical drainage of PE. It was concluded that PE is a common and benign finding after cardiac surgery and usually disappears without specific therapy.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aortic Valve
  • Coronary Artery Bypass* / methods
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Echocardiography
  • Fibrinolytic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Graft Occlusion, Vascular / epidemiology*
  • Graft Occlusion, Vascular / etiology
  • Heart Valve Prosthesis
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Mitral Valve
  • Pericardial Effusion / complications
  • Pericardial Effusion / diagnosis
  • Pericardial Effusion / epidemiology*
  • Pericardial Effusion / etiology
  • Postoperative Complications / diagnosis
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology*
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology
  • Preoperative Care
  • Prospective Studies


  • Fibrinolytic Agents