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J Emerg Med. 2012 Feb;42(2):220-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2010.05.071. Epub 2010 Aug 30.

Hypotension is uncommon in patients presenting to the emergency department with non-traumatic cardiac tamponade.

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Department of Emergency Medicine, Long Island Jewish Medical Center, New Hyde Park, New York, USA.



Cardiac tamponade is a life-threatening disease in which hypotension is believed to be a common finding. Prior inpatient studies have described normotensive or hypertensive cases of tamponade; however, because the data were not collected from the Emergency Department (ED), the hemodynamic spectrum may differ from those presenting to the ED.


We hypothesized that hypotension is uncommon in patients presenting to the ED with non-traumatic tamponade.


A retrospective chart review was conducted between January 2002 and December 2007 of patients presenting to our ED who were subsequently diagnosed with cardiac tamponade.


A total of 34 patients were identified with a diagnosis of tamponade. The mean blood pressure on ED arrival was 131/79mm Hg. Upon initial presentation to the ED, 35% (n=12) of patients were hypertensive, 50% (n=17) were normotensive, and 15% (n=5) were hypotensive. Of the 5 patients who were hypotensive on ED arrival, only 2 (6% of all patients) remained hypotensive upon admission to the hospital and before a pericardiocentesis. An average of 995mL of fluid was removed from the pericardium. The chief complaint for the majority of patients in tamponade was shortness of breath (70%); 59% were tachycardic in the ED, and 72% had cardiomegaly on chest X-ray study.


Hypotension is uncommon in patients presenting to the ED with non-traumatic cardiac tamponade. The majority of patients are normotensive or even hypertensive. Thus, the emergency physician should not exclude the diagnosis of tamponade even in light of normotension or hypertension.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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