Pericardial effusions are abnormal collections of fluid around the heart that if large enough, can cause tamponade, preventing the heart from filling properly and leading to death. They can be caused by a variety of conditions such as cardiac surgery or renal failure, but over half of patients requiring interventions have a history of cancer.
Treatment options include pericardiocentesis or placement of a needle to drain the fluid. This is only 25% effective in preventing recurrence. The traditional approach of a subxyphoid pericardial window is 70-75% effective. A minimally invasive video assisted approach of a pericardial window creates a hole in the pericardium to allow the fluid to drain into the chest cavity and is 95% effective in draining the pericardial effusion and preventing cardiac tamponade recurrence.