Lesson 14, Topic 4
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Cardiac tamponade refers to the condition whereby the pericardial effusion has caused a significant reduction in right ventricular function such that heart failure has resulted.  Thus cardiac tamponade represents the most severe form or consequence of pericardial effusion.  On physical examination the arterial pulses are markedly reduced, the heart sounds are muffled, and there is jugular venous distention.  On history there is evidence of weakness, exercise intolerance, or syncope.

The presence of cardiac tamponade represents a cardiac emergency and requires immediate attention.  Immediate pericardiocentesis is indicated.