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OBJECTIVES: This study reports on the safety of early removal of pericardial drains after cardiac tamponade complicating atrial fibrillation catheter ablation (AFCA) procedures, the need for repeat pericardiocentesis, major adverse outcomes, as well as length of stay, and the need for opiate analgesia. BACKGROUND: Tamponade from AFCA is traditionally managed by pericardiocentesis with delayed removal of the drain (typically 12 to 24 h later) in case of re-bleeding. A drain in situ often causes severe pain but ongoing blood loss is rare. Our institution adopted the practice of early removal of drains before leaving the laboratory if bleeding has stopped. METHODS: The authors performed a retrospective descriptive analysis of 43 cases of tamponade complicating AFCA from 2006 to 2015, comparing patients in whom the drain was removed early (group early removal [ER]; n = 25) versus traditional delayed removal (group delayed removal [DR]; n = 18). RESULTS: The groups were similar with respect to clinical/demographic characteristics, proportions of first-time versus re-do and pulmonary vein isolation versus pulmonary vein isolation + additional ablation. There were no deaths. No ER patients required drain re-insertion before discharge. The length of stay was shorter in the ER group (3 days; range 1 to 9 days) than in the DR group (4 days; range 2 to 60 days). The requirement for opiate analgesia was less in the ER group (8%) than in the DR group (72%). CONCLUSIONS: Early removal of pericardial drains after tamponade complicating AFCA procedures appears to be safe and effective, with re-insertion not required in this cohort. The traditional practice of leaving drains in situ for 12 to 24 h may result in more patient discomfort and longer hospitalization.

Original publication




Journal article


JACC Clin Electrophysiol

Publication Date





367 - 373


atrial fibrillation, catheter ablation, early removal of drain, length of stay, pericardial drain, tamponade