The procedure is most often done in a special procedure room, such as a cardiac catheterization laboratory. It may also be done at a patient's hospital bedside. A health care provider will put an IV into your arm in case fluids or medicines need to be given through a vein. For example, you may be given medicines if your heartbeat slows or your blood pressure drops during the procedure.
The health care provider will clean an area just below the breastbone or below the left nipple. Numbing medicine (anesthetic) will be applied to the area.
The doctor will then insert a needle and guide it into tissue that surrounds the heart. Often, echocardiography is used to help the doctor see the needle and any fluid drainage. An electrocardiogram (ECG) and x-rays (fluoroscopy) may also be used to help with positioning.
Once the needle has reached the correct area, it is removed and replaced with a tube called a catheter. Fluid drains through this tube into containers. Most of the time, the pericardial catheter is left in place so draining may continue for several hours.
Surgical drainage may be needed if the problem is hard to correct or comes back. This is a more invasive procedure in which the pericardium is drained into the peritoneal (abdominal) cavity. This may need to be done when you are under general anesthesia.