Difference between Mediastinum and Pericardial Cavity

What is Mediastinum?

Mediastinum is an anatomic compartment found between the lungs in the thoracic cavity. It is made up of fibrous and loose areolar connective tissues. It is surrounded side by side with the pleurae, with the chest wall in the front, vertebrae at the back, thoracic inlet at the top and diaphragm at the bottom.

It is further divided randomly by the pericardium into four compartments namely, superior, anterior, posterior and middle compartments. These divisions are useful in radiology when examining mediastinal lesions.

The mediastinum contains all the organs of the thoracic cavity, such as heart and its blood vessels, lymph nodes, thymus gland, trachea and oesophagus, except the lungs.

The most common disease associated with mediastinum includes cyst, thymoma, neoplasm, and tumours. Mediastinitis is the inflammation of the tissues due to bacterial infection or organ rupture. Pneumothorax can be developed if there is presence of air in the mediastinum.

What is Pericardial Cavity?

The heart is enclosed in between two serous membranes, and the space present between the two membranes is referred to as pericardial cavity or pericardial space. It is filled with about 10-50 ml of pericardial fluid. It lies just anterior to the liver. The two layers are made up of strong connective tissue and smooth tissues.

The fluid filled in the cavity provides a cushioning for the heart to prevent it from external shocks. It decreases friction and protects the organ from physical pressures. Pericardial effusion is a pathological condition that develops when the rate of production of the fluid is more than the rate of removal of the fluid. It leads to fever, shortness of breath, chest pain and swelling. This condition can be controlled by performing a procedure called pericardiocentesis, where the extra fluid is removed via needle.

Mediastinum vs Pericardial Cavity


Pericardial Cavity


An anatomic compartment found in the thoracic cavity is called mediastinum.

A space or cavity present between the serous membranes that contain the heart is called pericardial cavity.

Division of the Structure

It is divided into four compartments, superior, posterior, middle and anterior compartments.

No such division.

Presence of Fluid

No such presence.

It contains the pericardial fluid.

Enclosed Organs

It encloses all the organs of a thoracic cavity, such as heart, oesophagus, trachea, lymph nodes and thymus gland, except the lungs.

It encloses the heart.


It houses all the important organs of the thoracic cavity.

It provides mechanical support to the heart from external shocks.

Tissue Composition

It is made up of fibrous and loose areolar connective tissues.

It is made up of strong connective and smooth tissues.

Associated Diseases

Mediastinitis, pneumothorax and cancerous tumours.

Pericardial effusion

Explore BYJU’S Biology for more interesting topics.

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Frequently Asked Questions on Difference between Mediastinum and Pericardial Cavity

Is mediastinum in the pericardial cavity?

The pericardial cavity is present in the middle compartment of mediastinum.

How are the pericardium and mediastinum related?

The superior mediastinum is present just above the pericardium. The anterior mediastinum is bounded by the pericardium at the back. The middle mediastinum contains the pericardium. And, the posterior mediastinum forms a space between the pericardium and thoracic vertebrae.

What separates the thoracic cavity from the abdominal cavity?

The diaphragm separates the thoracic cavity from the abdominal cavity.

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