High attenuation pericardial fluid on CT following cardiac catheterization

Laura L. Avery, Vineet R. Jain, Hillel W. Cohen, Meir H. Scheinfeld

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


High-density pericardial fluid may be seen on noncontrast CT performed following cardiac catheterization (CC), raising the possibility of hemopericardium. Our goal was to determine the clinical course and associations of incidentally discovered high-attenuation pericardial fluid on noncontrast CT performed soon after CC. Hospital database search over a 7.5-year period identified 211 patients who underwent CT of the chest and/or abdomen within 60 h before or after CC, 150 having CC first. Pericardial fluid volume and attenuation as well as relevant laboratory and clinical parameters were recorded. Bivariate associations with average pericardial fluid attenuation (HUavg) were assessed. Using the 61 patients with CT before CC as controls, 44 of the patients with CC first had attenuation values greater than the mean+2SD of 22.6 Hounsfield unit (HU) and 19 had attenuation values greater than the maximum control patient value of 39.8 HU. All patients with incidental finding of high-density pericardial fluid followed a benign course. Bivariate correlations showed time gap between CC and CT (rho=-0.50, p<0.001), estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) (rho=-0.24, p=0.004), and female gender (median (IQR) 17.4 (13.6, 29.6) vs. 15.8 (9.9, 23.7), p=0.02) to be associated with HUavg. In multiple linear regression analysis, only time gap and female gender were independently significantly associated with average attenuation (both p<0.001). The finding that patients with incidentally discovered high-density pericardial fluid followed an uneventful course suggests a benign etiology such as vicarious excretion, and in patients who are otherwise stable, observation rather than immediate intervention should be considered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)381-386
Number of pages6
JournalEmergency Radiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2014


  • Cardiac catheterization
  • Hemopericardium
  • Pericardial effusion
  • Pericardium
  • Vicarious excretion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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