Effusive-constrictive pericarditis in the spectrum of pericardial compressive syndromes.

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When pericardial fluid accumulates and exceed the reserve volume of the pericardium or when the pericardium becomes scarred and inelastic, one of three pericardial compressive syndromes may ensue, namely, cardiac tamponade (CT), characterised by the accumulation of pericardial fluid under pressure; constrictive pericarditis (CP), the result of scarring and loss of the normal elasticity of the pericardial sac; and effusive-constrictive pericarditis (ECP), characterised by the concurrence of a tense pericardial effusion and constriction of the heart by the visceral pericardium. Although relatively uncommon, prevalence estimates vary widely and depend on the nature of the cohorts studied, the methods used to diagnose ECP and the manner in which ECP is defined. Most cases of ECP are idiopathic, reflecting the frequency of idiopathic pericardial disease in general, and other causes include radiation, malignancy, chemotherapy, infection and postsurgical/iatrogenic pericardial disease. The diagnosis of ECP often becomes apparent when pericardiocentesis fails to decrease the right atrial pressure by 50% or to a level below 10 mm Hg. Important non-invasive diagnostic modalities include echocardiography, cardiac magnetic resonance and, to a lesser extent, cardiac CT. In cases with clear evidence of pericardial inflammation, a trial of an anti-inflammatory regimen is warranted. A complete pericardiectomy should be reserved for refractory symptoms or clinical evidence of chronic CP.

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