Prospective evaluation of pericardial catheter placement versus needle pericardiocentesis in the management of canine pericardial effusion

J Vet Emerg Crit Care (San Antonio). 2021 Jan;31(1):11-17. doi: 10.1111/vec.13030. Epub 2020 Dec 4.


Objective: To compare the safety and efficacy of pericardial catheter placement with needle pericardiocentesis in dogs with pericardial effusion (PE) DESIGN: Prospective, randomized clinical trial.

Setting: University teaching hospital.

Animals: Thirty client-owned dogs requiring pericardiocentesis between January 2017 and August 2019.

Interventions: Dogs were randomized to undergo PE drainage via indwelling pericardial catheter placement (catheter group) followed by elective drainage every 4-6 hours or needle pericardiocentesis (needle group) repeated as necessary.

Measurements and main results: Fifteen dogs were allocated to the catheter group and 15 to the needle group. Data collected included signalment, cause of effusion, occurrence of arrhythmias pre-, during, and post-pericardiocentesis, procedural length, and details of repeated drainages. There was no significant difference between mean procedural times for pericardial catheter placement (17.7 min [±11.8]) and needle pericardiocentesis (12.1 min [±8.6]) (P = 0.192) or the rate of new arrhythmias in the catheter (36%) and needle (64%) groups (P = 0.24). Pericardial catheters were kept in situ for a median of 21 hours (range, 14-85). Three of 15 (20%) dogs in the needle group required repeated pericardiocentesis within 24 hours of initial pericardiocentesis. Pericardial catheters enabled repeated large volume PE drainage in 4 cases (median, 10.6 mL/kg; range, 8-5-10.6).

Conclusions: Pericardial catheters appear to offer a safe alternative to needle pericardiocentesis. Minimal sedation is required for placement, and they can be placed quickly. Their indwelling nature and use was not associated with a higher rate of arrhythmia compared to that of needle pericardiocentesis alone, and may be beneficial in the event that clinically significant PE recurs.

Keywords: arrhythmia; dog; extended pericardial catheter drainage; pericardiectomy; tamponade.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial, Veterinary

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Catheterization / veterinary
  • Dog Diseases / surgery*
  • Dogs
  • Female
  • Hospitals, University
  • Male
  • Needles / veterinary
  • Pericardial Effusion / surgery
  • Pericardial Effusion / veterinary*
  • Pericardiocentesis / instrumentation
  • Pericardiocentesis / veterinary*
  • Prospective Studies