Epicardium: The inner layer of the pericardium, a conical sac of fibrous tissue that surrounds the heart and the roots of the great blood vessels.
The pericardium has outer and inner coats. The outer coat is tough and thickened, loosely cloaks the heart, and is attached to the central part of the diaphragm and the back of the sternum (breastbone). The inner coat is double with one layer closely adherent to the heart while the other lines the inner surface of the outer coat with the intervening space being filled with fluid.
This small amount of fluid, the pericardial fluid, acts as a lubricant to allow normal heart movement within the chest.
The word "pericardium" means around the heart. The outer layer of the pericardium is called the parietal pericardium. The inner part of the pericardium that closely envelops the heart is, as stated, the epicardium; it is also called the visceral pericardium.
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Last Editorial Review: 5/13/2016