Medically Reviewed By:
Written By:
Last Modified April 15, 2022
This page features 6 Cited Research Articles
Fact Checked
Our fact-checking process begins with a thorough review of all sources to ensure they are high quality. Then we cross-check the facts with original medical or scientific reports published by those sources, or we validate the facts with reputable news organizations, medical and scientific experts and other health experts. Each page includes all sources for full transparency.
Reviewed is the nation’s most trusted mesothelioma resource

The Mesothelioma Center at has provided patients and their loved ones the most updated and reliable information on mesothelioma and asbestos exposure since 2006.

Our team of Patient Advocates includes a medical doctor, a registered nurse, health services administrators, veterans, VA-accredited Claims Agents, an oncology patient navigator and hospice care expert. Their combined expertise means we help any mesothelioma patient or loved one through every step of their cancer journey.

More than 30 contributors, including mesothelioma doctors, survivors, health care professionals and other experts, have peer-reviewed our website and written unique research-driven articles to ensure you get the highest-quality medical and health information.

About The Mesothelioma Center at

  • Assisting mesothelioma patients and their loved ones since 2006.
  • Helps more than 50% of mesothelioma patients diagnosed annually in the U.S.
  • A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau.
  • 5-star reviewed mesothelioma and support organization.
Learn More About Us


"My family has only the highest compliment for the assistance and support that we received from The Mesothelioma Center. This is a staff of compassionate and knowledgeable individuals who respect what your family is experiencing and who go the extra mile to make an unfortunate diagnosis less stressful. Information and assistance were provided by The Mesothelioma Center at no cost to our family."
Mesothelioma patient’s daughter
  • Google Review Rating
  • BBB Review Rating
Read Our Testimonials
Jump To A Topic

What Causes Pericardial Effusions?

Pericardial effusion may be caused by mesothelioma tumors growing on the heart lining (pericardium).

Other causes of pericardial effusion include:

  • Pleural mesothelioma or other cancers of the chest
  • Inflammation of the heart lining
  • Bacterial, viral, fungal or parasitic infection
  • Certain chemotherapy drugs such as doxorubicin and cyclophosphamide
  • Radiation therapy
  • Underactive thyroid
  • Inflammation
  • Infection
  • Other primary cancers of the chest

Pericardial effusion is a common symptom of pericardial mesothelioma, a rare cancer that forms in the lining of the heart.

This lining, known as the pericardium, is made up of two layers. Normally, a small amount of fluid exists between these layers to lubricate the lining and offer protection around the heart.

What Are the Symptoms of Pericardial Effusions?

Not everyone with pericardial effusion will experience symptoms.

Symptoms of pericardial effusion include:

  • Shortness of breath or breathing difficulties
  • Uncomfortable breathing while lying down
  • Chest pain (commonly on the left side)
  • A sense of fullness or pressure in the chest

Excess fluid can increase pressure on the heart, a condition called cardiac tamponade. This prevents the chambers from filling completely and results in poor circulation and inadequate oxygen supply.

A 2021 case study of a 64-year-old woman with a history of radiation therapy for breast cancer developed malignant pericardial mesothelioma. The recurrent bloody pericardial effusion worsened and caused generalized swelling and shortness of breath at night. 

Treatment for pericardial effusion involves minor or major surgical procedures.

Pericardial Effusion Treatment

Pericardial effusion caused by mesothelioma is treated with procedures that drain the fluid or surgically remove the lining where the fluid collects.


pericardiocentesis is a minor surgical procedure that drains fluid from around the heart.

Process of a Pericardiocentesis

  1. A local anesthetic is administered.
  2. A thin needle is inserted into the pericardial lining and guided by a heart ultrasound to ensure accuracy and prevent injury.
  3. The needle is replaced by a catheter.
  4. The catheter drains the excess fluid, which may take several hours.

There is a chance the fluid could return after a pericardiocentesis. Patients with recurring pericardial effusion may be candidates for a pericardiectomy to prevent recurrence.

In a 2017 case report, a pericardial mesothelioma patient with pericardial effusion was treated with a pericardiocentesis. The procedure successfully resolved the effusion and the patient went on to receive chemotherapy for six months. Two years later the patient was still alive receiving only supportive care.


pericardiectomy, or pericardial window, is a surgery that removes part or all of the heart lining. It is used to treat pericardial effusion, inflammation of the pericardium (pericarditis) and pericardial mesothelioma.

There are two types of pericardiectomies:

  • A partial pericardiectomy removes a diseased portion of the heart lining.
  • A total pericardiectomy removes nearly all of the lining.

The surgery prevents fluid from accumulating again. Recovery in the hospital takes one to two weeks.

Get the Compensation You Deserve
Healthy fish, vegetables and fruit
Watch our Free Mesothelioma Nutrition Webinar
Lab technician using a microscope in a lab
Immunotherapy & Mesothelioma Clinical Trials

Tell us what you think
Did this article help you?
How did this article help you?
What about this article isn’t helpful for you?
Did this article help you?

Thank you for your feedback. Would you like to speak with a Patient Advocate?