Pericardial effusion and cardiac tamponade is a rarely reported complication following stem cell transplant (SCT). The incidence among pediatric SCT recipients is not well defined. To assess the frequency of clinically significant pericardial effusions, we retrospectively examined clinically significant cardiac effusions at our center. Between January of 1993 and August 2004, clinically significant pericardial effusions were identified in nine of 205 patients (4.4%). The median age at the time of transplant was 9 years (range 0.6-18 years) and seven received an allogeneic transplant. All nine had normal cardiac function prior to transplant. The effusion developed at a median of 30 days (range 18-210 days). All allogeneic recipients had acute or clinically extensive graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) at the time the effusion was diagnosed. Seven patients (78%) required pericardiocentesis or surgical creation of a pericardial window. No patient died as a complication of the effusion or the therapeutic procedures. Clinically significant pericardial effusions are more common than previously reported in pediatric SCT recipients. Acute and chronic GVHD is an associated factor.
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