Cardiac Tamponade Physiology Secondary to Tense Ascites

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Abstract

Cardiac tamponade is a common and often life-threatening process, which is typically associated with a pericardial effusion or, in rare cases, with a large pleural effusion. Theoretically, as reported in only a single prior case, it can be caused by extrinsic compression from tense ascites. We present a case in which dynamic inferior wall collapse was secondary to increased abdominal pressure from tense ascites. This phenomenon may be more common than previously diagnosed, especially in patients with liver disease. These patients often develop frequent ascites and present with clinical signs and symptoms similar to cardiac tamponade (tachycardia, hypotension and dyspnea). Presently, no formal practice guidelines exist regarding cardiac imaging for these patients. A high index of suspicion is required for timely diagnosis and management.

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