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Catheter Cardiovasc Interv. 2008 Mar 1;71(4):504-7. doi: 10.1002/ccd.21431.

Primary percutaneous balloon pericardiotomy for malignant pericardial effusion.

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Department of Cardiology, Waikato Hospital, Hamilton, New Zealand.



Pericardial effusion associated with malignancy is a life-threatening complication of late-stage disease. While simple drainage is effective in relieving the symptoms, reaccumulation of effusion may cause further symptomatic episodes, often during a period when overall patient management is focused on improving the quality of remaining life. Over a 16-year period, we have adopted a strategy of managing such patients with balloon pericardiotomy as the initial preferred treatment. The results are described and compared to alternative management strategies.


A retrospective analysis of patients who presented with symptomatic, malignant pericardial effusion, their management, procedural complication rates, and the need for further therapy for the same condition was made. Survival, reaccumulation rates, and readmissions after the index procedure were recorded and compared.


Forty-three patients were treated for malignant pericardial effusion. Balloon pericardiotomy was the primary treatment in 27/43 patients, simple drainage in 14/43, and surgery in 2/43. Reaccumulation rates between balloon pericardiotomy and simple aspiration (7.4% vs. 14.3%, respectively, P = 0.48) and complication rates (7.4% vs. 7.1%, respectively, P = 0.98) were not statistically different. Survival following intervention was driven by the underlying pathology and was poor, with overall median survival of 56 days.


Balloon pericardiotomy, as initial management of symptomatic malignant pericardial effusions, allows a definitive procedure to be performed at presentation. This can be achieved with low complication rates, similar to treatment by simple drainage.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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