Paucis Verbis: Cardiac tamponade or just an effusion?

Jul 08, 11
Paucis Verbis: Cardiac tamponade or just an effusion?

cardiac tamponade

What is a cardiac tamponade? It is a clinical state where pericardial fluid causes hemodynamic compromise. With bedside ultrasonography in most Emergency Departments now, it’s relatively easy to detect a pericardial effusion.

But what we more want to know in the immediate setting is: Is this cardiac tamponade?

You can look for RA systolic or RV diastolic collapse. What if it’s equivocal? How good is the clinical exam and EKG in ruling out a tamponade?


Poor to average, at best. The Beck’s triad of hypotension, distended neck veins, and muffled heart sounds are important to remember … only on tests.

Think about performing a pulsus paradoxus test to see if it’s >12 mmHg. This is a sign of physiologic compromise. Note that the typical cutoff has been 10 mmHg but 12 mmHg is a more specific test.

PV Card: Cardiac Tamponade

Adapted from [1]
Go to ALiEM (PV) Cards for more resources.

Thanks to Dr. Hemal Kanzaria for suggesting this JAMA article!


  1. Roy CL, Minor MA, Brookhart MA, Choudhry NK. Does This Patient With a Pericardial Effusion Have Cardiac Tamponade? JAMA. 2007;297(16):1810. doi: 10.1001/jama.297.16.1810

Author information

Michelle Lin, MD

ALiEM Founder and CEO
Professor and Digital Innovation Lab Director
Department of Emergency Medicine
University of California, San Francisco

The post Paucis Verbis: Cardiac tamponade or just an effusion? appeared first on ALiEM.

Leave a Comment

Like articles like this one?

Join our Email List and get the latest TCCC/TECC/TEMS news bulletins, articles, product releases, and more!

Free Delivery

On all orders over $99 within CONUS and to APO/FPO

Easy Returns

We're here to help! Satisfaction Guaranteed

Knowledgeable Staff

Ready to assist you at a moment's notice

Safe& Secure Checkout

World’s most advanced and secure website encryption.