The cause of cardiac tamponade is only established in 50% of cases. This problem is most commonly treated by pericardiocentesis alone, pericardiotomy being reserved for cases of recurrence and pericardiectomy for those patients presenting with constrictive pericarditis. A series of 16 patients treated with pericardial fenestration via a thoracoscope is presented. Pericardial and pleural biopsies were performed, together with cytological and biochemical analysis of the pericardial and pleural fluid where present. This procedure established the aetiology of effusion in all cases. In malignant pericardial effusion bleomycin was used for pericardial sclerosis. This resulted in fewer recurrences than in those patients where sclerosis was not attempted (12.5% v 60%).
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