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Pericardiocentesis, also called a pericardial tap, is a procedure in which a needle and catheter remove fluid from the pericardium, the sac around your heart. The fluid is tested for signs of infection, inflammation, and the presence of blood and cancer.

Occasionally, pericardiocentesis is done in an emergency to treat something called cardiac tamponade, a life-threatening rapid buildup of fluid around the heart that weakens its pumping. The procedure relieves pressure there.

Why Is It Performed?

Your doctor uses it to:

  • Find out if the fluid around your heart is caused by problems such as infection or cancer
  • Relieve symptoms, like shortness of breath, that are caused by the fluid around your heart