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Unusual presentation of more common disease/injury
Postcardiotomy syndrome: recurrent cardiac tamponade and an exquisite steroid response
  1. Douglas Fink1,
  2. Alessandra Frigiola2,
  3. 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.

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