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Echocardiography. 2015 Oct;32(10):1471-6. doi: 10.1111/echo.12909. Epub 2015 Feb 13.

Prognostic Value of Pericardial Effusion on Serial Echocardiograms in Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension.

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Division of Cardiology, UPMC, Heart and Vascular Institute, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Department of Statistics, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.



Pericardial effusion in pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) is an indicator of right heart failure and poor prognosis; its significance on serial transthoracic echocardiograms (TTE) is not clear.


Baseline and follow-up TTE (1.0 ± 0.5 years), clinical parameters, and outcomes were studied (N = 200) in consecutive patients with PAH who underwent TTE at our center between October 1999 and November 2007. Study baseline TTE was 2.8 ± 4.0 years from initial PAH diagnosis.


Over median follow-up of 3.6 ± 2.6 years from baseline TTE, 106 patients (53%) died. Pericardial effusion was present in 20% at baseline, and at any time during the study in 29%. Patients with any pericardial effusion during follow-up were more likely to have underlying connective tissue disease. They also had significantly higher mean right atrial pressure and pulmonary vascular resistance, had lower cardiac output by invasive hemodynamic studies, had higher serum creatinine, and were more likely to be treated with prostanoids. Patients were also significantly likely to have more echocardiographic right atrial dilation and right ventricular dilation and dysfunction, and worse tricuspid regurgitation with higher peak velocity. During follow-up, there was significantly increased use of prostanoids (58% vs. 28%) and combination therapy (8% vs. 2%) compared to baseline. Persistence of pericardial effusion on both baseline and follow-up TTE was associated with worse outcome, and an independent predictor of survival after adjusting for age, creatinine, functional class, and hemodynamics (P < 0.01).


Persistence of pericardial effusion in PAH despite vasoactive therapy predicts worse outcomes; absence or resolution of pericardial effusion with therapy suggests better prognosis.


echocardiography; pericardial effusion; pulmonary arterial hypertension; survival

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