Pericardial fluid is found between the pericardium, a thin sac that surrounds the heart, and the heart muscle.

Pericardial fluid

A cross section of the thorax, showing the contents of the middle and posterior mediastinum. The pleural and pericardial cavities are exaggerated, as there is normally no space between the parietal and visceral pleura and between the pericardium and the heart.

pericardial fluid it’s the serous fluid secreted by the serous layer of the pericardium at the pericardial cavity. The pericardium consists of two layers, an outer fibrous layer and an inner serous layer. This serous layer has two membranes surrounding the pericardial cavity into which pericardial fluid is secreted. The fluid is similar to cerebrospinal fluid of the brain which also serves to cushion and allow some movement of the organ.


Pericardial fluid reduces friction within the pericardium by lubricating the epicardial surface, allowing the membranes to slide over one another with each heartbeat.


benhorin and others (2005) studied the composition of the pericardial fluid in patients undergoing open heart surgery. They discovered that the fluid is composed of a high concentration of lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), protein and lymphocytes. In a healthy adult, there is up to 50 ml of clear, straw-colored fluid. However, there are few data on the normal composition of pericardial fluid to serve as a reference.

ischemic heart disease

In patients with ischemic heart disease there is an accumulation of angiogenic growth factors in the pericardial fluid. These contribute to angiogenesis (the formation of new blood vessels) and arteriogenesis (the increase in the diameter of existing arterioles). This helps to prevent myocardial ischemia (lack of oxygen to the heart).

pericardial effusion

AN pericardial effusion is the presence of excessive pericardial fluid, this can be confirmed using a echocardiogram. Small strokes are not necessarily dangerous and are commonly caused by infections such as HIV or may occur after cardiac surgery. Large, rapidly accumulating effusions can cause cardiac tamponadea life-threatening complication that puts pressure on the heart, preventing the ventricles from filling properly.


pericardiocentesis is a procedure used to remove pericardial fluid from the pericardial cavity. It is performed by means of a needle and under the guidance of a ultrasound. It can be used to relieve pressure from pericardial effusions or for diagnostic purposes, showing the cause of abnormalities such as: Cancer, Heart perforation, Cardiac trauma, Congestive heart failure, Pericarditis, rupture of a ventricular aneurysm.

pericardial window

This can also be used to treat pericardial effusion or cardiac tamponade.

Additional Images

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    pericardial fluid


Anatomy of the heart
In general
right heart
left heart
pericardial cavity
blood supply

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