Inflammation of the pericardium. The pericardium is a sac (thin membrane) around the heart. It has two layers, with a small amount of "lubricating" fluid between them. The fluid lets the heart move around within the sac. With inflammation, the heart can become squeezed inside the sac. The disorder occurs more often in men ages 20 to 50.
FREQUENT SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
Dull or sharp pain in the front of the chest. The pain moves to the neck, arm, and shoulder. The pain worsens with movement and eases when sitting up or leaning forward.
Fever, sweating, and chills.
The inflammation is a reaction to injury, infection, or irritation of the heart lining. It can be caused by a number of different factors. In many cases, the cause is unknown.
RISK INCREASES WITH
Rheumatic fever and other diseases of connective tissue, such as lupus erythematosus.
Complication of a heart attack.
Complication following heart surgery.
Complication of a chest injury.
Viral, bacterial, tuberculous, amebic, toxoplasmotic, or fungal infection.
Chronic kidney failure.
Spread of cancer to the pericardium.
No specific preventive measures. To avoid risk factors, get treatment for disorders that may lead to pericarditis.
Usually curable with treatment. Allow 2 to 3 weeks for healing. It may recur one or more times in the next 6 to 12 months.
Pericarditis becomes chronic if it lasts for 6 to 12 months following the initial (acute) episode.
Excess fluid in the pericardial sac impairs heart function.
Pericardium becomes thick and scarred.
Blood circulation problems.
DIAGNOSIS & TREATMENT
Your health care provider will do a physical exam and ask questions about your symptoms and activities. Medical tests may include blood studies, chest X-ray, heart tests (electrocardiogram and echocardiogram), and others.
Treatment is aimed at relieving symptoms and treating the underlying disorder. Treatment may include drugs and, sometimes, hospital care.
Home care is usually sufficient.
Hospital care may be needed if there are complications. A needle may be used to draw off excess fluid if it is causing problems for heart function. Rarely, surgery may be needed on the pericardium.
Apply a heating pad or warm compresses to the chest to relieve pain.
To learn more: American Heart Association, 7272 Greenville Ave., Dallas, TX 75231; (800) 242-8721; website: www.americanheart.org.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce pain and inflammation are usually prescribed.
Steroidal drugs for severe forms of pericarditis may be prescribed.
Stronger pain drugs may be prescribed.
Drugs to treat any infection (bacterial, fungal, etc.) will be prescribed.
Rest in bed until fever and pain subside.
Resume your normal activities gradually.
Resume sexual relations once fever and pain are gone.
No special diet.
NOTIFY OUR OFFICE IF
You or a family member has symptoms of pericarditis.
The following occur during treatment: Fever, shortness of breath and rapid heartbeat, cough (with blood), unexplained weight loss, or increased pain.