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What are the treatment options for fluid around the heart?

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Quick Answer

The most effective treatment for fluid around the heart depends on how much fluid has accumulated, what is causing the fluid buildup and whether cardiac function is being affected by pressure on the heart, according to the Mayo Clinic. The medical term for this condition is pericardial effusion.

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Full Answer

Initial treatment involves treating inflammation of the pericardium, the sac-like structure that surrounds the heart. Inflammation is treated using aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or Colchicine (Colcrys). The Mayo Clinic explains that a corticosteroid, such as prednisone, may be prescribed for a patient who does not respond to these medications.

A patient who is experiencing pressure on the heart, called cardiac tamponade, requires more advanced treatment. One procedure that a cardiologist may recommend is pericardiocentesis, which involves the insertion of a catheter to drain fluid from the pericardium. If there's bleeding, open-heart surgery may be required to drain the pericardium, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Recurring pericardial effusion calls for special treatment. During a procedure called intrapericardial sclerosis, a solution is injected into the pericardium that seals it shut and prevents fluid buildup. A cardiologist may also recommend that the pericardium be removed altogether in a procedure called a pericardiectomy. The Mayo Clinic explains that the heart can function without the pericardium.

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