Pericarditis is swelling
and irritation of the
pericardium, which is the sac that surrounds your
Pericarditis usually doesn't cause serious problems. Most people get
better in 7 to 10 days. When there are problems, they may include:
Many things can cause pericarditis, including:
In many cases the cause the is not known.
The main symptom is a
sharp pain in the center or left side of your chest. The pain may spread to the shoulder blade. For some people, this pain is dull
instead of sharp. It may be worse when you lie down or take a deep
The pain lasts for hours or days and doesn't get better
when you rest. It's different from a type of chest pain called
angina, which only lasts a short time and usually gets
better with rest.
Other symptoms may include a mild fever,
weakness, feeling very tired, coughing, hiccups, and muscle aches.
Pericarditis usually isn't dangerous, but your chest pain could be
caused by something more serious, like a
heart attack. And getting diagnosed and treated early
can help keep pericarditis from leading to other problems. That’s why you
should call a doctor right away if you have any kind of sudden chest
Your doctor will
listen to your heart during a physical exam. He or she will also ask questions
about your medical history, such as whether you've had a recent illness,
radiation treatment for cancer, or tuberculosis.
Your doctor may
want you to have some tests, including an
electrocardiogram, a chest X-ray, and blood
If the chest X-ray shows any fluid buildup, or if you have new or worse symptoms, such as shortness of breath, your doctor may want you to have a test
If there are no other problems,
pericarditis usually goes away on its own in a few weeks. During this time:
Be sure to keep all follow-up appointments with your doctor. If you have complications or the illness gets worse, you may need further treatment. This could include medicines or a procedure to relieve the fluid and pressure around your heart (pericardiocentesis).
Learning about pericarditis:
Visit the American Heart Association (AHA) website for information on
physical activity, diet, and various heart-related conditions. You can search for information on heart disease and stroke, share information with friends and family, and use tools to help you make heart-healthy goals and plans. Contact the AHA to find your
nearest local or state AHA group. The AHA provides brochures and information
about support groups and community programs, including Mended Hearts, a
nationwide organization whose members visit people with heart problems and
provide information and support.
CardioSmart is an online education and support program that can be your partner in heart health. This website engages, informs, and empowers people to take part in their own care and to work well with their health care teams. It has tools and resources to help you prevent, treat, and/or manage heart diseases.
You can set health and wellness goals and track your progress with online tools. You can track your weight, waist measurement, blood pressure, and activity. You can use calculators to help you find your body mass index (BMI) and check your risk for heart problems. You can search for a cardiologist. And you can find medicine information and prepare for your next appointment. Also, you can join online communities to connect with peers and take heart-healthy challenges.
CardioSmart was designed by cardiovascular professionals at the American College of Cardiology, a nonprofit medical society. Members include doctors, nurses, and surgeons.
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
(NHLBI) information center offers information and publications about preventing
Other Works Consulted
Hoit BD (2008). Pericardial disease. In V Fuster et al., eds., Hurst's The Heart, 12th ed., pp. 1951–1974. New York: McGraw-Hill Medical.
LeWinter MM (2008). Pericardial diseases. In P Libby et al., eds., Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine, 8th ed., pp. 1829–1853. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier.
Maisch B, et al. (2004). Guidelines on the diagnosis and management of pericardial diseases. Executive summary. European Heart Journal, 25(7): 587–610.
Shafi S, Oh JK (2008). Diseases of the pericardium, cardiac tumors, and cardiac trauma. In DC Dale, DD Federman, eds., ACP Medicine, section 1, chapter 13. Hamilton, ON: BC Decker.
April 5, 2011
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
& Stephen Fort, MD, MRCP, FRCPC - Interventional Cardiology
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