Medical Definition of Pericardium

  • Medical Author:
    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.

Pericardium: The conical sac of fibrous tissue that surrounds the heart and the roots of the great blood vessels. The pericardium's outer coat (the parietal pericardium) is tough and thickened, loosely cloaks the heart, and is attached to the central part of the diaphragm and the back of the breastbone. Its inner coat (the visceral pericardium or epicardium) is double, with one layer closely adherent to the heart and the other lining the inner surface of the outer coat. The intervening space between these layers is filled with pericardial fluid. This small amount of fluid acts as a lubricant to allow normal heart movement within the chest.

Also known as the pericardial sac. See also: Pericarditis.

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Reviewed on 12/27/2018

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