Pericarditis. It is a condition in which the sac-like covering around the heart ( pericardium ) becomes inflamed. It can be caused by a virus or other infection .


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  • 1 Causes
  • 2 Symptoms
  • 3 types
  • 4 Evaluation
  • 5 Treatment
  • 6 See also
  • 7 Sources


Pericarditis occurs more frequently in men 20 to 50 years of age. In most cases the cause of this disease is unknown, but it may be the result of:

  • viralbacterial, or fungal infection .
  • heart attack.
  • metastasisfrom a nearby malignant tumor.
  • The radiationused for some types of cancer .
  • An injury to the chestesophagus (the tube that carries food to the stomach ), or the heart .
  • The use of certain types of medications to weaken the immune system.

Pericarditis can also occur in patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis , lupus , kidney failure , leukemia , HIV infection, or AIDS .


The main symptom of pericarditis is sharp, stabbing pain in the center or left side of the chest (in some cases it may be dull pain).

The pain can radiate to the neck or left shoulder, and can be worse when taking deep breaths. The pain is typically less when sitting upright or leaning forward, but it can get worse when the person lies down.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Swallowing pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • General ill feeling


There are two types of pericarditis:

  • Acute pericarditis(lasting less than six weeks): This is a sudden , painful inflammation of the pericardium that often leads to pericardial effusions, that is, the accumulation of fluid and blood products such as fibrin or red blood cells and white , between the membrane that is attached to the heart and the one that is in contact with the lungs . It causes fever and chest pain similar to that caused by a heart attack that tends to spread to the left arm . A small percentage of patients affected by benign acute pericarditis If the symptoms reappear when you stop the anti-inflammatory treatment , or simply after a time free of discomfort, you can be incessant or recurrent pericarditis. If so, the cause should be reconsidered, since it could be secondary pericarditis caused by another disease .
  • Chronic pericarditis (lasts more than six weeks): results from fluid accumulation or a thickening of the pericardium that can cause retraction and calcification of the pericardium. In such a case there is talk of constrictive pericarditis. This type of pericarditis can produce right ventricular failure, that is, edema or accumulation of fluid in the abdominal area as well as in the ankles and pretibial region. Chronic constrictive pericarditis occurs through the appearance of fibrous tissue around the heart that compresses it and prevents its normal dilation. This compression increases the pressure in the veins that carry the blood to the heart so that the liquid ends up stagnating and in its attempt to get out it accumulates in theabdomen and even in the space around the lungs.


The doctor will suspect that you suffer from pericarditis when describing your symptoms and can indicate when the pain started and how it has evolved. In addition, you can use various diagnostic methods:

  • With a stethoscope, you can listen to your chest to try to detect a sound like rubbing surfaces, indicating the presence of fluid around the heart. If the disease is severe, a crepitus may also be detected in the lungs, which is a sign of fluid in the space around them.
  • chest x– ray will determine if the heart is enlarged due to increased fluid in the pericardium.
  • The electrocardiographyECG ) can learn more about the heart rate and the size and function of the cavities of the heart.
  • The echocardiographyallows to see the wall motion of the heart and overall size of this. It is also one of the best studies to see the accumulation of fluid around the heart.
  • A sample of the fluid can be removed from the pericardium using a needle. This procedure is called ericardiocentesis. The extracted liquid sample is analyzed for the presence of an infection.
  • Other imagingtechniques , such as computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), may be used to make a more complete diagnosis.


Pericarditis is treated with pain relievers and anti-inflammatories. If this is caused by an infection, antibiotics will be prescribed. If the increase in fluid in the pericardium restricts the pumping action of the heart, it may be necessary to perform a pericardiocentesis to remove the excess fluid.

In rare cases, surgical intervention may be necessary. If you have suffered from acute pericarditis , that is, if the infection occurred recently, it will take 1 to 3 weeks to recover. The chronic pericarditis may last several months.


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