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Cardiac Decortication (Epicardiectomy) for Occult Constrictive Cardiac Physiology After Left Extrapleural Pneumonectomy*

John G. Byrne, MD, FCCP; Alexandros N. Karavas, MD; Yolonda L. Colson, MD; Raphael Bueno, MD, FCCP; William G. Richards, PhD; David J. Sugarbaker, MD, FCCP; Samuel Z. Goldhaber, MD, FCCP
Author and Funding Information

*From the Cardiac Surgery (Drs. Byrne and Karavas), Thoracic Surgery (Drs. Colson, Bueno, Richards, and Sugarbaker), and Cardiovascular Divisions (Dr. Goldhaber), Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, MA.

Correspondence to: John G. Byrne, MD, FCCP, Division of Cardiac Surgery, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, 75 Francis St, Boston, MA; e-mail: jbyrne@partners.org



Chest. 2002;122(6):2256-2259. doi:10.1378/chest.122.6.2256
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Constrictive cardiac physiology typically does not occur in the absence of parietal pericardium. However, we report eight patients who, after left extrapleural pneumonectomy and removal of the parietal pericardium for malignancy, presented with dyspnea, jugular venous distension, and peripheral or generalized edema unresponsive to diuretics. Cardiac decortication (epicardiectomy) was performed whereby a thickened peel encasing the heart was surgically excised, resulting in vigorous contraction and expansion of the heart. In one patient, decortication occurred early after pneumonectomy and was incomplete. Acute signs of inflammation were present, and recurrence necessitated repeat decortication. When patients present with dyspnea, hepatojugular reflux, and peripheral edema refractory to diuretics, constrictive cardiac physiology should be considered in the differential diagnosis, even in the absence of parietal pericardium.

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