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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

A cadaveric study of complications associated with the subxiphoid and transthoracic approaches to emergency pericardiocentesis.

OBJECTIVES: The aim of this cadaveric study was to compare three commonly used approaches for emergency pericardiocentesis and to determine the safest approach. METHODS: Thirteen cadavers were injected at three sites with three different coloured dyes, one for each of the three different recommended approaches. The approaches used were (1) ATIP: anterior transthoracic in the fifth left intercostal space (Advanced Cardiac Life Support protocol), (2) SXP1: immediately subxiphoid and (3) SXP2: subxiphoid approach 1.5 cm inferior to SXP1 (Advanced Trauma Life Support protocol). The needles were left in the chest cavity to confirm their course on the way into the pericardial sac. Once the chest plate was removed, the location of the needle and the presence of dye enabled the identification of structures damaged and cavities entered by the needle. The associated complications from the three approaches were then recorded and compared. RESULTS: The anterior transthoracic intercostal pericardiocentesis approach to pericardiocentesis (2/39) and an immediately subxiphoid approach SXP1 (1/39) produced fewer potential complications than SXP2 (4/39). CONCLUSIONS: The SXP1 approach appeared to be the safest, followed by anterior transthoracic intercostal pericardiocentesis. The SXP2 approach caused the highest amount of complications, resulting from the needle entering the abdominal cavity. The presence of intra-abdominal pathology and the possibility of post-mortem changes in the position of the diaphragm, however, might have been a causative factor in this finding.[1]


  1. A cadaveric study of complications associated with the subxiphoid and transthoracic approaches to emergency pericardiocentesis. Kennedy, U.M., Mahony, N.J. European journal of emergency medicine : official journal of the European Society for Emergency Medicine. (2006) [Pubmed]
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