After removal of temporary pacemaker wires, nurses measure vital signs frequently to assess for cardiac tamponade; however, evidence for this procedure is limited.
To determine risk factors for cardiac tamponade after temporary pacemaker wire removal.
Retrospective review of data for coronary artery bypass graft and valve surgery (N = 23 717) performed from January 1999 to December 2008. Patients were categorized by reason for reoperation: bleeding less than 3 days after initial surgery (n = 812, group 1), bleeding 3 days or more after index surgery but not for cardiac tamponade (n = 171, group 2), bleeding 3 days or more after index surgery for cardiac tamponade after temporary pacemaker wire removal (n = 23, group 3), and no reoperation (n = 22 711, group 4).
Less than 1% (9.7 cases/10 000) of patients required reoperation for cardiac tamponade after removal of temporary pacer wires. Of patient-related factors studied, only smoking history differed for group 3 vs group 1 (P = .03) and group 2 (P = .01). Of vital sign changes, 1 patient (4%) had tachycardia and 3 patients had cardiac arrest, but only 1 of the 3 had hypotension before the arrest. In total, 12 patients (52%) had hypotension; however, it was mild or intermittent in 5 cases, and did not occur within the 4 hours after wire removal in 3 cases. After removal of temporary pacing wires, common early signs/symptoms were bleeding (26%) and dyspnea (26%). Other documented changes were pressure in the chest, diaphoresis, cold and clammy skin, dizziness, and mental status changes.
Tamponade related to pacer wire removal was rare and not consistently associated with changes in vital signs. Dyspnea, bleeding, and other factors may indicate early onset of cardiac tamponade after removal of temporary pacer wires.