Variations in current clinical practice of postoperative pericardial effusion: A questionnaire study

Stefan van Dinter*, Wilson Li, Laurens Wollersheim, Laura Rodwell, Niels van Royen, Hendrik-Jan Dieker, Ad Verhagen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Objective Postoperative pericardial effusion (PPE) occurs frequently after cardiac surgery, potentially leading to life-threatening cardiac tamponade. Specific treatment guidelines are currently lacking, possibly leading to variations in clinical practice. Our goal was to assess clinical PPE management and evaluate variation between centres and clinicians. Methods A nationwide survey was sent to all interventional cardiologists and cardiothoracic surgeons in the Netherlands, regarding their preferred diagnostic and treatment modality of PPE. Clinical preferences were explored utilising four patient scenarios, each with a high/low echocardiographic and clinical suspicion of cardiac tamponade. Scenarios were also stratified by three PPE sizes (<1 cm, 1-2 cm, >2 cm). Results In total, 46/140 interventional cardiologists and 48/120 cardiothoracic surgeons responded (27/31 contacted centres). Cardiologists favoured routine postoperative echocardiography in all patients (44%), whereas cardiothoracic surgeons preferred routine imaging after specific procedures, especially mitral (85%) and tricuspid (79%) valve surgery. Overall, pericardiocentesis (83%) was preferred over surgical evacuation (17%). Regarding all patient scenarios, cardiothoracic surgeons significantly preferred evacuation compared with cardiologists (51% vs 37%, p<0.001). This was also observed with cardiologists employed in surgical centres compared with non-surgical centres (43% vs 31%, p=0.02). Inter-rater analysis varied from poor to near-excellent (k 0.22-0.67), suggesting varying PPE treatment preferences within one centre. Conclusion There is significant variation in the preferred management of PPE between hospitals and clinicians, even within the same centre, possibly due to the lack of specific guidelines. Therefore, robust results of a systematic approach to PPE diagnosis and treatment are needed to formulate evidence-based recommendations and optimise patient outcome.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere002271
JournalOpen Heart
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 24 Apr 2023

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