A pericardiectomy is performed for chronic pericarditis (inflammation of the sac-like covering around the heart) and involves removing the membrane that surrounds the heart. This is done so chronic fluid does not accumulate in the area between the heart and pericardium, which can squeeze the heart and cause it not to function properly.

What pericardiectomy treats

This procedure is most commonly done to relieve constrictive pericarditis or to remove a pericardium that is hard and fibrous.

What to expect during a pericardiectomy

Preparing for your procedure

Prior to your pericardiectomy, you’ll meet with your doctor to discuss your medical history, the medicines you take and any questions you have about the procedure.

During your procedure

You are given a general anesthetic and are asleep during the surgery. Your surgeon makes an incision over the breastbone then spreads the ribs to allow access to the heart. When the surgeon reaches the heart, the pericardium (membrane around the heart) is stripped off and removed. The surgeon then wires the breastbone back together and closes the incision.

After your procedure

After surgery, you are taken to the post-operative recovery area and monitored. You are given pain medication as needed. It is important to keep the incision areas clean and dry.

The length of your hospital stay depends on how quickly you are able to recover and perform some physical activity. If you experience fevers, severe pain, redness, swelling, warmth where the incisions were made or drainage from the incisions, inform your doctor immediately. Your surgeon will give you specific instructions about recovery at home.

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