A cardiac tamponade in the hypertensive patient presenting as abdominal fullness.

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Abstract

Cardiac tamponade is a medical emergency consisting of an accumulation of fluid in the pericardial space which is rapidly progressing and fatal. Because cardiac tamponade is ultimately a clinical diagnosis, mindful consideration for atypical presentations is essential for the reduction of mortality in the acute setting. Our patient was a 77year-old female admitted after presenting with general malaise, weakness, somnolence, altered mental status and urinary incontinence found to have CML (chronic myeloid leukemia) on confirmatory bone marrow biopsy after suspicions arose from a leukocytosis of 34,000 cells per mcL with 85% neutrophils and elevated blasts (8%). Initial vital signs revealed mild tachycardia, mild tachypnea and blood pressure elevated to 162/84mm Hg along with a temperature of 38.7°C and oxygen saturation of 96% on 2l by nasal cannula. She received the standard of care for a community acquired pneumonia and was started on treatment with decitabine as further work-up was unremarkable. An abdominal CT performed for abdominal fullness later displayed a large pericardial effusion. Repeat echocardiography exhibited right atrial diastolic collapse, inferior vena cava dilatation (IVC) without inspiratory collapse >50% and the large pericardial effusion consistent with tamponade. The blood pressure remained hypertensive until she suddenly went into cardiac arrest after being intubated for a pericardial window and expired. Our case highlights the need to keep cardiac tamponade as a differential in the hypertensive individual with abdominal complaints as atypical presentations can obscure diagnosis, delay treatment and increase mortality.

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