Pericardiectomy After Previous Bypass Grafting: Analyzing Risk and Effectiveness in this Rare Clinical Entity

Erin A. Gillaspie, Joseph A. Dearani, Richard C. Daly, Kevin L. Greason, Lyle D. Joyce, Jae Oh, Hartzell V. Schaff, John M. Stulak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Background Historically the most common causes of pericarditis necessitating pericardiectomy are infection, radiation, idiopathic causes, and inflammation. More recently, there has been a rise in iatrogenic pericardial constriction, with most cases occurring after coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG). To date, there has been no large series evaluating the incidence, presentation, and effectiveness of surgical intervention. We review our 20-year experience managing this special subset of patients. Methods From January 1993 to December 2013, 938 patients underwent pericardiectomy at our institution. We identified 98 patients who underwent pericardiectomy after previous coronary bypass grafting. Demographic information was collected along with the indication for the procedure, technical aspects of the operation, early and late morbidity and mortality, and long-term New York Heart Association (NYHA) functional class. Median age at operation was 68 years (range, 38–81 years), and 91 of the patients (93%) were men. The indication for pericardiectomy was pericardial constriction in all patients. Median preoperative left ventricular ejection fraction was 60% (range, 30%–71%) and median NYHA functional class was III (91% were class III/IV). Results The surgical approach was median sternotomy in 81 patients (83%), left thoracotomy in 16 patients (16%), and a clamshell approach in 1 patient (1%). The extent of pericardial resection was radical in 61 patients (62%), subtotal in 27 patients (28%), and completion in 10 patients (10%). Cardiopulmonary bypass was used in 63 patients (64%) and aortic cross-clamping was used in 5 patients (5%). Concomitant coronary bypass grafting was performed in 10 patients (10%). Early mortality was seen in 3 of 98 patients (3%). The median duration of late follow-up was 3.2 years (maximum, 17.5 years), and overall 5- and 10-year survival was 62% and 41%, respectively. There were no multivariate predictors of worse outcome. The sole univariate predictor of lower overall survival was the use of cardiopulmonary bypass (hazard ratio, 1.96; 95% confidence interval, 1.03–3.7]; p = 0.04). NYHA functional class was I/II in 84% of patients at a median follow-up of 3.2 years. Conclusions The rate of early mortality for pericardiectomy after previous coronary bypass grafting is low, and the late adverse impact of cardiopulmonary bypass likely reflects increased severity of disease and technical complexity. Importantly, during late follow-up extending more than 17 years, the vast majority of patients demonstrated significant improvement in NYHA functional class.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1429-1433
Number of pages5
JournalAnnals of Thoracic Surgery
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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