Massive primary chylopericardium: A case report

Catherine A. Musemeche, Fernando A. Riveron, Carl L. Backer*, Vincent R. Zales, Farouk S. Idriss

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


A large pericardial effusion was discovered in an asymptomatic 12-year-old boy admitted for an elective orthopedic procedure. On physical examination, heart rate was 96 and blood pressure was 130 70 without paradox. The neck veins were not distended, but heart tones were distant. Chest roentgenogram (CXR) showed an enlarged cardiac silhouette. Echocardiogram showed a massive pericardial effusion compressing the right atrium, with depressed ventricular contractility. Pericardiocentesis yielded 450 mL of chylous fluid. A percutaneous pericardial drain was placed and drained another 400 mL of chyle. Pericardial fluid reaccumulated even though the patient was on a low-fat diet, and 1 week after admission left thoracotomy was performed with partial pericardiectomy and pericardial window. There was 1 L of chyle in the pericardial sac; frozen section of the pericardium showed lymphangiectasia. Chest tube drainage diminished rapidly and the patient was discharged. Follow-up CXR at 1 week showed fluid in both pleural spaces requiring bilateral tube thoracostomies again draining chyle. Even with total parenteral nutrition (TPN), 500 mL/d of chyle drained from the pleural tubes. Right thoracotomy with ligation of the thoracic duct was performed after 1 week of TPN. Pleural drainage abruptly dropped, and there has been no reaccumulation in either the pleural spaces or pericardium at 6-month follow-up. This case dramatically supports early thoracic duct ligation and partial pericardiectomy as the treatment of choice for primary massive chylopericardium.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)840-842
Number of pages3
JournalJournal of pediatric surgery
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1990


  • Chylopericardium
  • pericardial effusion
  • thoracic duct

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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