Creation of a pericardial window is used to drain fluid from the pericardial sac around the heart. The approach may be below the sternum through a subxiphoid incision, or alternately between the ribs of the left chest. The indication for surgery is a pericardial effusion (fluid build-up).
Pericardial effusion has a variety of causes, including viral infection, cancer, renal disease, heart failure, hypothyroidism, and post cardiac surgery. A pericardial window is used both to provide a diagnosis and to improve heart function. Depending on the underlying disease process, patients usually go home in two days.