Can Water Around The Heart Cause Death?

What Do You Mean By Water Accumulating Around The Heart?

The human heart is surrounded by double-layered membrane called the pericardium. The pericardium performs many important roles that aid to the normal functioning of the heart. It holds the human heart in its appropriate position in the chest; it protects the heart from infection by separating it from the other internal organs and prevents the heart from overfilling with blood. Usually this pericardium contains a small amount of yellow clear fluid (approximately two to three tablespoons) called the pericardial fluid that helps to lubricate and reduce the friction caused by the contraction and relaxation of the heart. If any condition causes an increase in this fluid content, than that causes excess water around the heart.

When Happens When Water Accumulates Around The Heart?

Now if there is excess water in the pericardium surrounding the heart, this will disrupt the smooth functioning of the heart. This condition is also medically known as pericardial effusion. In this condition, the most common clinical symptom seen is the presence of chest pain. This pain is a little different from the pain experienced during a heart attack as this improves when you are leaning forward while sitting and worsens when you are inhaling. Along with chest pain, the patients may also complain of shortness of breath, fever, light-headedness and muscle pain.

What Causes Water To Accumulate Around The Heart?

Most clinical cases of pericardial effusion are a by-product of pericarditis, which is the inflammation of the pericardium. The longer the inflammation persists, the higher the fluid build-up in the heart. The prime causes are bacterial or viral infections, cancer, metabolic disorders, history of heart attack, liver or kidney failure and autoimmune disorders. In a majority of the cases, it is difficult to identify a specific cause and the treatment is usually directed to improve the symptoms of the condition.

Can Water Around The Heart Cause Death?

Can Water Around The Heart Cause Death?

When there is excess water in the heart, it creates a constant pressure on the walls of the heart. This in turn increases the underlying inflammation of the heart walls. If this is left untreated, then over time the pericardium gradually starts developing scar tissue. This makes it lose its flexibility and so it becomes more rigid. Thus, capacity of the heart to fill with blood keeps decreasing over time. This will result in serious complications like chronic constrictive pericarditis or cardiomyopathy. Patients will experience breathing problems, chronic muscle weakness, dizziness, and palpitations. If these symptoms are not treated promptly than, there is a great probability they will become life threatening as the patient may develop heart failure. Most people who are diagnosed and treated at an early stage go on to lead long healthy lives.

The goal of the treatment is to reduce the pressure on the heart. This can be done by either removing the excess fluid using diuretics or decreasing the intake of table salt; reducing the inflammation of the pericardium by using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroids or colchicine and taking pain killers to combat the chest pain. The patient needs to avoid all rigorous physical activity while recovering because strenuous activities can trigger back the clinical symptoms. Recovery may take from a few weeks to a few months.

Unless it is associated with complications, interventional procedures are not generally necessary. If the patient develops a severe infection or heart impairment, then the extra fluid must be drained immediately. This can be done via pericardiocentesis or pericardiectomy. In pericardiocentesis, the surgeon will insert a needle into the pericardial cavity to remove the excess fluid. Pericardiectomy is a more risky procedure that is carried out under general anesthesia. Here, the surgeon makes a small incision in the chest to remove a portion of the pericardium. This causes excess fluid to drain out and prevents it from returning.

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