Dr Emanuele Catena and colleagues report a case of an adult male who presented 7 days post cardiac surgery with simultaneous pleural and pericardial effucions causing dyspnoea, tachycardia and hypotension.
His pericardial effusion was posterior which usually requires surgical drainage, but the adjacent left pleural effusion was associated with pulmonary atelectasis and displacement of the lung, allowing them to insert a needle using sonographic guidance first into the pleural space then the pericardial space.
They inserted through the fourth intercostal space 4 cm medially to the left posterior axillary line (with the patient positioned in the semireclining position). They used agitated saline bubbles to confirm first the pleural then the pericardial location of the needle tip. A 30-cm-long catheter was introduced into the posterior pericardium using the Seldinger technique, and serous-haemorrhagic fluid was drained. The catheter was then retracted allowing drainage of the pleural effusion.
The procedure resulted in haemodynamic and respiratory improvement.
The authors summarise:
This case reports the technique of a “back pericardiocentesis” performed under echographic guidance as a valid alternative to surgery in the peculiar situation characterized by the simultaneous presence of a large left pleural effusion. In the presence of a large left pleural effusion, pulmonary atelectasis and displacement of air-filled pulmonary tissue allows ultrasound transmission from a patient’s back to the heart through a liquid interface and needle insertion “from back” to reach the pericardial space.
Pericardiocentesis From Back Under Echographic Guidance An Approach for Posterior Pericardial Effusions
Circulation. 2011 Dec 13;124(24):e835-6