What to Expect after a Pericardiectomy

Diagram Of Human Heart With ECG GraphPericarditis sufferers often seek pericardiectomy to alleviate their chest pain and heart issues.

A pericardiectomy is a surgical procedure that partially or entirely removes the pericardium surrounding the heart. The pericardium is a fibrous sac made of two layers with approximately 50 cc of fluid in the middle, and this fluid mitigates friction between layers as the heart beats. However, the pericardium must be thin and flexible to work as intended. If this membrane becomes too thick and rigid, the heart will not stretch correctly, and an insufficient amount of blood will enter the organ. This lack of blood leads to pericarditis, or heightened pressure in the heart.

During a pericardiectomy operation, the surgeon will either cut over the breastbone, between the ribs, or on the side of the chest to access the pericardium. Then they will extract a portion of the sac or remove the entire membrane. Here, Myocarditis Foundation discusses post-pericardiectomy symptoms and recovery to help patients across the nation prepare for treatment.

Surgery Risks and Immediate Post-Op Period

After the surgeon completes the procedure, patients may be exposed to numerous risks. These vary based on age, gender, the structure of the heart, and overall health status. Common pericardiectomy risks include:

  • Arrhythmia
  • Heart attack
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Increased fluid around the lungs
  • Issues related to anesthesia
  • Pneumonia
  • Low cardiac output syndrome
  • The need for cardiopulmonary bypass or blood transfusions during surgery

When you wake up from the procedure, you might feel sleepy or confused. You will likely experience mild soreness but should not feel significant pain. Typically, patients can consume liquid the day after a pericardiectomy and eat solid food when they can stomach it. Further, you will need to remain in the hospital for at least five days to a week. Your doctors will observe your blood pressure, heart rate, and other vital signs to ensure you are recovering well. They may also attach a tube to your chest to drain out excess fluid.

What to Anticipate upon Leaving the Hospital

Before you go home, ask the surgeon or doctor what limitations you have. Typically, patients can resume their routine but should avoid heavy lifting. If your doctor prescribes any medicine, dietary restrictions, or healing exercises, ensure to follow their guidance. Failure to adhere to these instructions can delay your full recovery or lead to complications.

On average, it takes six to eight weeks for patients to recover from pericardiectomy completely. However, sicker individuals can experience extended recovery periods. If you develop a fever, notice more draining from the wound, or feel heightened chest pain during this time, reach out to your doctor for assistance.

After the procedure, the surgeon will schedule a follow-up appointment in a week or 10 days to remove your stitches or staples. Additionally, your cardiologist may schedule an echocardiogram to determine how well your heart pumps blood. For more information about pericardiectomy symptoms, pericarditis, or other heart conditions like myocarditis, contact Myocarditis Foundation today.