by Amy Scholten, MPH
Pericarditis is swelling and inflammation of the sac around the heart. This can make it hard for the heart to work as it should. It can range from mild to severe and life-threatening.
The cause of pericarditis is often unknown. Some causes may be:
The risk of pericarditis may be higher in people with immune system problems.
Symptoms of pericarditis may include:
The doctor will ask about symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. The doctor will listen for abnormal sounds in the heart or lung.
Images of the heart and chest will confirm the diagnosis. They may be taken with:
Other tests may be needed to find the cause. Tests may include:
The main goal is to ease pain and swelling. If a cause is known, it will be treated as well.
Mild swelling will often pass in a few weeks or month. Care may include:
Severe swelling can be an emergency. It may make it hard for the heart to beat. Hospital care may be needed. Treatment may include:
Other inflammatory diseases raise the risk of pericarditis. It may last longer or tend to recur. A treatment plan will be made to help decrease the risk of more problems.
There are no current guidelines to prevent pericarditis.
American Heart Association
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
Acute and recurrent pericarditis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/acute-and-recurrent-pericarditis. Accessed July 19, 2021.
Andreis A, Imazio M, et al. Contemporary diagnosis and treatment of recurrent pericarditis. Expert Rev Cardiovasc Ther. 2019;17(11):817-826.
What is pericarditis? American Heart Association website. Available at: https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/pericarditis/what-is-pericarditis#.WiAwZlWnFQI . Accessed July 19, 2021.
Last reviewed July 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael J. Fucci, DO, FACC