To determine whether closure of the pericardium after cardiac operations affects the filling characteristics and systolic performance of the left ventricle, we measured left ventricular volume, pressure, cardiac index, and stroke work index in 10 patients between 11 and 15 hours after cardiac operations, with the pericardium first closed and then open. At the time of operation, radiopaque tantalum markers were inserted in the left ventricular myocardium to outline the chamber in the 30-degree right anterior oblique projection, and the pericardium was closed by a continuous polypropylene suture exteriorized at both ends of the sternotomy. The patient was then transferred to the surgical intensive care unit, where left atrial pressure was measured via a fluid-filled catheter, left ventricular pressure with a micromanometer-tipped catheter, and myocardial oxygen consumption via a coronary sinus catheter. Left ventricular volume was measured by computer-aided analysis of fluoroscopic images (recorded at 30 frames per second) of the implanted myocardial markers. Left atrial pressure was maintained at target values of 10, 15, and 20 mm Hg by intravenous augmentation of blood volume. Left ventricular and left atrial pressures and volumes were measured with the pericardium closed; the pericardium was then opened by withdrawal of the pericardial suture. Radiopaque clips on the pericardial edges confirmed opening of the pericardium seconds after withdrawal of the suture. Repeated measurements of left ventricular pressures and volumes were then made at the target left atrial pressures with the pericardium open. End-diastolic volume index, peak positive time derivative of pressure, stroke work index, and cardiac index all increased significantly when the pericardium was opened (p < 0.001). Thus we found the following: (1) At physiologic pressures, the pericardium had a significant constraining effect on diastolic filling of the left ventricle, and (2) opening of the pericardium resulted in increased cardiac index and stroke work index. These increases may be attributed to the Frank-Starling response to increased left ventricular preload. The demonstrated improvement in left ventricular systolic performance should be considered when contemplating closure of the pericardium after cardiac operations, especially in patients with preoperative left ventricular dysfunction.
View details for Web of Science ID A1992JT19800033
View details for PubMedID 1405667