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Posts Tagged ‘pericardial effusion’

Detection of  pericardial effusion was  the earliest  clinical application of echocardiography. Diagnosing  large effusions is a non issue .Assessing  minimal effusions (Systolic vs diastolic echo free space) and associated  thickened pericardium is tough even after 50 years of echocardiography.

Mainly , we are limited by the resolution power of echo. Further , lack of echocardiographic landmark for visceral  layer of pericardium (It is same as epicardium !) makes  diagnosis of  thickened pericardium a real tough exercise.It is said , normal pericardium is less than 4mm .

Where to measure it ?  how to measure is still not clear.

Why differentiating  minimal  pericardial effusion from  thickened pericardium  is important ?

  • Mild  pericardial effusion is  largely a benign finding in vast majority.
  • But , even a minimally thickened pericardium  due to active inflammation  can be significant.
  • Sticky pericardial effusion predispose to thickening and constriction.
  • Early recognition of this dreaded pericardial pathology is essential to interrupt the inflammatory process.
  • In CRF (With or without dialysis) even a  minimal pericardial  effusion can denote a dismal outcome .

Here is a link to Horowitz classification of mild  pericardial  effusion ...

http://circ.ahajournals.org/cgi/reprint/50/2/239

It could help us understand, How thickened pericardium presents in echo. Of course, CT and MRI now have increased sensitivity for diagnosing  pericardial thickening.

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                                 The pleura and pericardium are very close anatomical companions within the thorax. Both contain minimal levels of physiological fluid.  It is quiet common to find combined pleural and pericardial  effusion. While the commonest explanation for combination of pleural and pericardial effusion is inflammation of both  in systemic disorders like polyserositis or malignancy . In cardiac failure also both effusions can  occur explained by raised venous pressure.

But there has always been a curious relationship between these two spaces.

                         Is there a antomical or physiological link between these two spacs ?  In fact a large pleural effusion some times result in sympathetic pericardial  effusion.  Tapping of pleural effusion may regress this pericardial fluid as well.

                         This is purely a clinical observation and needs an explanation .It is  believed , there is  some  non functional lymphatic channels shared between pericardial  and pleural spaces.This may get opened up in pathology of either of them.

 

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Heart is externally covered by two layers of pericardium .  Pericardial space is formed between parietal and visceral layers of pericardium . It is a narrow space which is normally lubricated with pericardial fluid up to 25ml. When these two tissue surfaces  come into contact ,  pathological  rub takes place.It is heard  whenever the pericardium is inflammed . Pericardial rub is a distinctive but uncommon  clinical sign .

Common clinical conditions

  • Acute pericarditis
  • Uremic pericarditis.
  • Rheumatic pericarditis
  • Post myocardial infarction

Pericardium has two layers .

There are four  possibilities for pericardial rub to take place.

The rub can occur

1.Between the two layers of pericardium

2.Between the visceral pericardium and the epicardial layer of  heart*.

3.Between parietal pericardium and the  chest wall

4.Pericardium can rub with the adjacent pleura( Pleuro pericardial rub )

The second and third mechanisms are very rare.

An update

We have realized one more possibility . Diaphragm forms the floor of the heart on which the hanging heart  rests . Rubbing of pericardium over diaphragmatic surface is a beat to beat affair that lasts the entire life !. In inflammatory states of  diaphragm especially  the contagious  ones from abdomen  , can result in pericardio- diaphragmatic rubs .These rubs are almost impossible to hear clinically.

pericardial effusion rub plural pleuro pericadial

*The anatomic mystery : Is epicardium same as visceral layer of pericardium ?

Some anatomist feel that both are same entities. If that is the case myocardium can never split its relationship with visceral pericardium.But it is also a anatomical fact visceral pericardium engulfs the coronary artery and  are located sub epicardially.

How many components of pericardial rub are clincally heard ?

Pericardial rub  classically has three components. Systolic, mid diastolic, and pressytolic atrial components. Pericardial rubs are typically described as to and fro rub. Systolic component is most consistent. In atrial fibrillation mono component pericardial rub is heard.

Quality

Superficial , scratchy, high pitched ( Can also be low pitched)

Location

Left sternal border , left 2nd or 3rd space  .Best heard in  sitting , leaning forward in inspiration. Many times the rubs are transient and evanescent . Since it has multiple components it may be mistaken for added heart sound like S 3 or S 4.

What is the mechanism of pericardial rub in the immediate post MI phase ?

Presence of pericardial rub post MI indicate a transmural involvement or atleast significant epicardial involvement . Recognition of this is important as presence of pericardial rub increases the risk of rupture  and hemorrhagic effusion if anticoagulants are used.

What is the  relationship between  pericardial effusion and  pericardial rub ?

Generally it is said with the onset of effusion pericardial rub disappear.But this is not necessarily true.

Rubs after contusion chest and fracture ribs can be with the chest wall and may have  no relationship with effusion.

Is pericardial rub a painful condition ?

Pericardial  rub associated with acute inflammatory pathology is severely painful (like a pleuritis).But pericarditis associated with chronic inflammatory conditions are less often generate pain.The exact reason is not known.

What is pleuro pericardial rub ?

This  clinical entity is poorly defined , often taught by veteran professors  in clinical auscultation classes.It can be heard in the mid segment  or diaphragmatic pleuritis with or without pericardial effusion in patients with  atypical pneumonias.

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