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Am J Emerg Med. 2009 Feb;27(2):216-9. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2008.01.056.

Pericardial effusion impending tamponade: a look beyond Beck's triad.

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Division of Cardiology, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI 48201, USA.


Clinical diagnosis of chronic or slowly progressing pericardial effusion with impending tamponade remains a challenge, particularly when classical physical signs are subtle or absent. A high index of suspicion should be entertained in such cases in the appropriate setting even when the clinical signs and symptoms are missing. We present two cases where the pericardial effusion was missed in the emergency department due to subtle clinical features or mistaken for a more familiar "look-a-like" presentation. A review of the literature and an analysis of various clinical parameters of published cases were performed. It is pivotal that physicians should not only be aware of the limitations of the traditional clinical signs, but also be familiar with the use of other subtle findings and the importance of other modalities that may potentially enhance the sensitivity in diagnosing chronic pericardial effusion impending tamponade.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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