The layer surrounding your heart, called pericardium, protects the functions of the heart. An injury or infection to this layer can cause fluid to build up between the sensitive layers. This condition is known as pericardial effusion. Fluid around the heart puts pressure on this organ and hinders the effective pumping of blood.

If left untreated, the condition can have serious repercussions, even death. Keep reading to learn about the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for fluid accumulation around the heart.

What causes fluid around the heart?

There are several causes of fluid buildup around the heart.


This is the swelling of the pericardium, which is a thin layer that surrounds your heart. A common occurrence of this condition is due to a respiratory infection. According to the American Heart Association, men aged between 20 – 50 are most prone to pericarditis. Here are the different types of pericarditis:

Bacterial pericarditis

Several kinds of bacteria can penetrate the fluid around the heart, causing bacterial pericarditis.

Viral pericarditis

HIV and gastrointestinal viruses can cause viral pericarditis.

Idiopathic pericarditis

Idiopathic pericarditis refers to pericarditis without cause that can be determined by health professionals.

Injury to heart

Being in a motor accident can injure the heart or the layer around it, causing an accumulation of fluid around this soft organ.

Congestive heart failure (CHF)

CHF is a chronic condition that affects the ability of the heart to pump blood efficiently. It can cause fluid buildup around the heart and other health issues.

Heart attack

A heart attack can cause swelling of the pericardium, resulting in fluid around your heart.


Breast cancer, lung cancer, melanoma can result in fluid buildup around the heart.

Kidney disease

Kidney damage can make your heart work harder to pump blood. For some individuals, it can cause pericardial effusion.

Fluid around heart and lungs

Fluid accumulation around the lungs is known as pleural effusion. Certain conditions can cause fluid around both your heart and lungs, including:

  • CHF
  • organ failure
  • pneumonia
  • trauma


Most of the time, fluid around the heart doesn’t come with any symptoms.

Here are a few possibilities:

  • pain in the chest
  • discomfort when you lie down
  • chest feeling full
  • difficulty breathing
  • shortness of breath

Treating fluid around the heart

Treatment for fluid around the heart depends on the age of the patient, overall health, and the underlying cause of the condition.

For mild symptoms and stable condition of a patient, the doctor will prescribe antibiotics for treating infection. Over-the-counter pain medication to relieve discomfort or both. For fluid due to inflammation, NSAIDs are prescribed.

Due to the continuous accumulation of fluid around your heart, pericardium pressurizes the heart and creates a harmful condition. In such conditions, your cardiologist may recommend taking the fluid out using a catheter penetrated into the chest. In some cases, open-heart surgery to repair your pericardium and your heart is the best option.

See your doctor

There are several causes of fluid buildup around the heart. Few of these causes are more severe than others. After your doctor diagnoses your condition, they will discuss treatment options. Schedule an appointment today with the best cardiologists in Houston, Texas. Call EPIC Heart & Vascular Center at (832) 432-1951.