BMJ Case Reports 2012; doi:10.1136/bcr-2012-007761
  • Unusual presentation of more common disease/injury

Postcardiotomy syndrome: recurrent cardiac tamponade and an exquisite steroid response

  1. Shay Cullen2
  1. 1Infection and Immunity, Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK
  2. 2Department of Grown-up Congenital Heart Disease, The Heart Hospital, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Douglas Fink, douglas.fink{at}


A 26-year-old woman presented moribund with fever and pleuritic chest pain 3 times in 4 months following elective aortic root surgery. She was admitted 41 days after surgery with cardiac tamponade requiring surgical drainage twice within 1 week. Despite this, she was re-admitted for a second time 4 days after discharge with persistent pericardial effusion. High fevers and an incidental regurgitant murmur were extensively investigated for and treated as possible endocarditis or graft infection without conclusive results. The patient spent a total of 61 days in hospital during this period, receiving seven different antibiotic courses. Her third admission, with most severe clinical features, nearly led to further surgery and removal of her aortic graft but instead culminated in a multidisciplinary team decision to initiate steroid therapy for postcardiotomy syndrome. A short course of oral prednisolone saw her pericardial effusion and symptoms resolve completely.

Register for free content

The full text of all Editor's Choice articles and summaries of every article are free without registration

The full text of Images in ... articles are free to registered users

Only fellows can access the full text of case reports (apart from Editor's Choice) - become a fellow today, or encourage your institution to, so that together we can grow and develop this resource

Don't forget to sign up for content alerts so you keep up to date with all the case reports as they are published, and let us know what you think by commenting on the Editor's blog

Navigate This Article