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Pericardial cavity

Recommended video: Pericardium [04:07]
Structure, blood supply and innervation of the pericardium.

The pericardial cavity is a potential space between the opposing layers of the serous pericardium's parietal and visceral layer.

This cavity has a fluid layer, that allows the heart to pulsate and move without friction. The fluid also serves to diminish surface tension and provide lubrication. Consequently, the pericardial cavity ensures unrestricted heart mobility.

This cavity envelops the heart except at the entry and exit points of the major vessels. The pericardial layers form two distinct 'tubes' encircling specific sets of these vessels: one interlinking the inferior vena cava, superior vena cava, and pulmonary veins, while the other connects the aorta and pulmonary trunk. The arrangement of these 'tubes' of pericardium and vessels within the cavity brings forth the oblique and transverse sinuses. These are recesses which lie within the serous pericardium.

Excessive fluid accumulation in the pericardial cavity, is called pericardial effusion. Pericardial effusion has the potential to lead to cardiac tamponade. This is a condition that occurs when the excess fluid accumulated in the pericardial cavity. This fluid then exerts pressure on the heart and impedes its ability to pump blood effectively. Pericardiocentesis is a procedure that is used to relieve this pressure and to diagnose the cause of the effusion.

Terminology: English: Pericardial cavity 
Cavitas pericardiaca
Function: Allows frictionless movement of the heart
Location: Between parietal and visceral layers of pericardium

Learn more about the pericardial cavity and the pericardium in this study unit: 

Pericardial cavity : want to learn more about it?

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