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A pericardioscopy is a test to look at the covering layers of the heart (pericardium) and take tissue samples (biopsies) if needed.

It allows the doctor to see whether the mesothelioma has spread into the covering layers of the heart. It is not a common test. You might have it if your doctor feels that surgery may be a treatment option for you.

What happens

You usually need to have a general anaesthetic for this test. So you have to stay in hospital for at least one night. But some people can have the test with just a local anaesthetic and a medicine to make them drowsy (a sedative).

The surgeon makes a small cut in the skin over your heart. Then they put a small tube with a camera and light attached through the cut.

Fluid or air is inserted through the tube. This helps the doctor see the covering layer of the heart (pericardium) clearly. The tube might contain a small video camera that shows the surgeon the area on a screen.

The surgeon can also take tissue samples (biopsies). These are examined later under a microscope to see if there are any mesothelioma cells.

After the test

When you wake up, you have a small dressing over the cut where the tube was put in.

Tell your nurse if you are feeling sore. They will give you painkillers.

Once you have got over the anaesthetic, you will be able to go home. This is usually the day after the test.

Getting your results

You should get your results within 1 or 2 weeks.

Waiting for results can make you anxious. Ask your doctor or nurse how long it will take to get them. Contact the doctor who arranged the test if you haven’t heard anything after a couple of weeks.

You can also call the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040. The lines are open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

Possible risks

Your doctor or nurse will tell you what to look out for. They’ll also give you a number to contact if you have any problems.

Last reviewed: 
07 Sep 2018
  • The Royal Marsden Manual of Clinical Nursing Procedures. 9th Ed.

    Doughty L and Lister S (Eds).

    Wiley Blackwell, 2015.

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