Iatrogenic cardiac tamponade after central venous catheter

Clin Cardiol. 1988 Feb;11(2):91-9. doi: 10.1002/clc.4960110207.


Myocardial perforations with a central venous catheter are rare in adults (67 cases published since 1968). These accidents are fatal in more than two-thirds of the cases owing to confusion caused by misleading symptoms which suggest pulmonary embolism. The perforation is generally localized in the right atrium (29 cases), less frequently in the right ventricle (18 cases). The superior vena cava is rarely affected (3 cases). The site of the perforation was not found in the other published cases. Clinical symptoms are signs of tamponade with disorders of cardiac rhythm. An enlargement of the cardiac shadow and an abnormal position of the catheter, buckled or openly intrapericardial, make the diagnosis radiologically. Echocardiography provides some information, but this is often too late for practical application. The diagnosis is made with right catheterization when it shows an equalization of the diastolic pressures. This allows the patient to be watched closely following the pericardial tap, after which a surgical approach may be indicated and performed. Prevention of these iatrogenic accidents must be systematic and strictly controlled for.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cardiac Tamponade / pathology*
  • Catheterization, Central Venous / instrumentation*
  • Catheters, Indwelling / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Heart Atria / injuries
  • Humans
  • Iatrogenic Disease*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pericardium / pathology
  • Vena Cava, Inferior / injuries