Blunt trauma as a suspected cause of delayed constrictive pericarditis: A case report

Eric M. Anderson, Dawn E. Jaroszewski, Francisco A. Arabia

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5 Scopus citations


Introduction. Constrictive pericarditis is a heterogeneous disease with many causes. Traumatic hemopericardium is an uncommon initiating cause. We report the case of a man developing constrictive pericarditis after blunt chest trauma, in order to highlight an approach to diagnosing the condition and to raise awareness of the possibility of this condition developing after blunt trauma. Case presentation. A 72-year-old Caucasian man presented initially to our outpatient clinic with a one-year history of progressively worsening dyspnea, and recent onset of edema of the legs. He was later taken to the emergency department and admitted to hospital. He had previously received unsuccessful treatment from his local primary physicians for suspected respiratory disorder and cellulitis of his legs. Echocardiography showed evidence of pericardial constriction, and computed tomography revealed nodular, lobulated thickening of the pericardium and pleura bilaterally. Interventional biopsies were taken, but gave inconclusive results. Thus, as pericarditis and/or advanced malignancy were suspected, diagnostic video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery was performed to take biopsies from the abnormal lung and pericardial tissue. Examination of these supported the diagnosis of pericarditis, as acute and chronic inflammation and fibrous thickening were found, with no evidence of malignancy. Our patient underwent cardiac catheterization, which revealed three-vessel coronary artery disease. Emergency total pericardiectomy and coronary bypass were performed. Having excluded other common initiating factors, we considered that a blunt trauma that our patient had previously sustained to his chest was the potential cause of the constrictive pericarditis. Conclusion: This was an interesting case of blunt chest trauma followed by progressive pericardial and pleural thickening. Subsequent development of chronic constrictive pericarditis occurred, requiring treatment by surgical pericardiectomy, as the clinical course of constrictive pericarditis is usually progressive without surgical intervention. Diagnosis of constrictive pericarditis remains challenging. Although uncommon, blunt trauma should be considered as a possible initiating cause. Delayed presentation of constrictive pericarditis should also be considered as a possible morbidity in a patient who has sustained blunt chest trauma. Our case also highlights the importance of performing echocardiography promptly in patients experiencing ongoing symptoms of congestive heart failure to allow earlier diagnosis of constrictive pericarditis or other cardiac disorders, and avoid unnecessary treatments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number76
JournalJournal of Medical Case Reports
StatePublished - 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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