Pericarditis

  • Medical Author:
    Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM

    Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

  • Medical Editor: Daniel Lee Kulick, MD, FACC, FSCAI
    Daniel Lee Kulick, MD, FACC, FSCAI

    Daniel Lee Kulick, MD, FACC, FSCAI

    Dr. Kulick received his undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of Southern California, School of Medicine. He performed his residency in internal medicine at the Harbor-University of California Los Angeles Medical Center and a fellowship in the section of cardiology at the Los Angeles County-University of Southern California Medical Center. He is board certified in Internal Medicine and Cardiology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

View the Heart Disease Slideshow

Pericarditis Definition

Inflammation of the lining around the heart (the pericardium) that causes chest pain and accumulation of fluid around the heart (pericardial effusion). There are many causes of pericarditis, including infections, injury, radiation treatment, and chronic diseases.

SOURCE:
MedTerms

Pericarditis facts

  • Pericarditis is an inflammation of the lining surrounding the heart (the pericardial sac).
  • Pericardial effusion is a collection of fluid in the pericardial sac. This fluid may be produced by inflammation.
  • The cause of pericarditis in most individuals is unknown but is likely due to viral infection. Pericarditis may be an associated complication of many diseases or may be due to trauma.
  • The diagnosis of pericarditis is made by history and physical examination. Testing usually includes an electrocardiogram (EKG, ECG), chest X-ray, and echocardiogram, or ultrasound of the heart. The inflammation of pericarditis is usually treated with anti-inflammatory medications (such as ibuprofen). It is important to treat the underlying disease or illness if one is present.
  • Pericardial tamponade occurs when enough fluid accumulates in the sac to compromise the heart's ability to adequately pump blood.
  • Tamponade is a medical emergency and is treated by pericardiocentesis, inserting a needle into the pericardial sac to remove the fluid.

What is pericarditis?

The heart muscle has a tight covering that surrounds it, a lining sac called the pericardium (peri=around +cardium=heart). This sac actually has two layers. The visceral pericardium is only one cell layer thick and fits tightly onto the heart muscle. The parietal pericardium is much tougher and thicker and has fibers that tether the heart to the rib cage and diaphragm. There is a potential space between the layers, meaning that in normal situations, it has a minimal amount of fluid. However, should inflammation occur, it can fill with fluid. Inflammation of the lining of the heart is called pericarditis (itis=inflammation).

Picture of the heart in the pericardial sac.
Picture of the heart in the pericardial sac.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/9/2015

Subscribe to MedicineNet's Heart Health Newsletter

By clicking Submit, I agree to the MedicineNet's Terms & Conditions & Privacy Policy and understand that I may opt out of MedicineNet's subscriptions at any time.

VIEW PATIENT COMMENTS
  • Pericarditis - Describe Your Experience

    Please describe your experience with pericarditis.

    Post View 37 Comments
  • Pericarditis - Symptoms and Signs

    What symptoms and signs did you experience with your pericarditis?

    Post View 23 Comments
  • Pericarditis - Treatment

    What kinds of treatment or procedures did you or a relative receive for pericarditis?

    Post View 4 Comments
  • Pericarditis - Causes

    Did an inflammatory disease or infection cause your pericarditis? What was the cause?

    Post View 3 Comments

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors