Synonyms:—Dropsy of the pericardium.

Definition:—A disease characterized by a transudation of serum into the pericardial sac, when no inflammation of the pericardium exists, in a manner similar to serous transudation into other cavities and tissues from causes common to dropsy.

Etiology:—The condition is a factor of dropsy in general; and a true dropsy of the pericardium. It develops from the same causes and appears late in the course of cardiac and renal dropsy. As it may occur after the appearance of dropsy of the pleura—hydrothorax—the diagnosis of hydropericardium may be rendered difficult and it may be entirely overlooked, as many of the symptoms of this disease are common to hydrothorax. In post-scarlatinal or post-diphtheritic nephritis this form of dropsy may develop suddenly and unaccompanied with other effusions.

Symptomatology:—The symptoms are not dissimilar to those of hydrothorax. There is difficulty in breathing, when the fluid is present in considerable quantity, with oppression of the heart action and general distress. There is precordial pain in a few cases, with irregular heart action, feeble pulse and ultimately cyanosis. The physical signs are those of dulness on percussion, which changes its location as the position of the patient is changed.

Treatment:—The treatment is similar to that of general dropsy and depends upon the exact cause of the disease. Usually we will find our best remedy to be apocynum, because the conditions to which that remedy are best adapted are present, while exercising its general influence upon the dropsical effusion it acts as a specific heart tonic, and regulator.

The Eclectic Practice of Medicine with especial reference to The Treatment of Disease, 1910, was written by Finley Ellingwood, M.D.