Patients with pericardial effusion are susceptible to cardiac tamponade. A compressing circumferential pericardial effusion typically results in an equalization of intracardiac and pericardial pressure during diastole and a progressive collapse of the right atrium and ventricle. Pulmonary hypertension that increases the afterload of the right ventricle may result in elevated pressures initially in the right ventricle and subsequently in the right atrium. This may lead to right ventricular hypertrophy and a pathologic structural and functional remodeling of both right heart chambers.
Conversely, elevated pressures within the right heart chambers caused by longstanding pulmonary hypertension may resist and protect against tamponade of these chambers in the setting of a coexisting pericardial effusion. In such cases, a sudden reduction in pulmonary arterial pressures may result in tamponade of the right heart chambers.