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Discharge Instructions for Pericarditis

Pericarditis is inflammation of the thin sac that surrounds the heart. Extra fluid builds up in the 2 layers. This can make it harder for the heart to work as it should. There are many causes. Treatment depends on the cause. It may involve self-care, medicines, or surgery.

Steps to Take

Self Care

Pericarditis may go away on its own. It can take a few weeks or months until you are fully better. Sometimes, it can last longer or come back. Rest when you need to.

Activity

You will have limits on some activities until you are better.

  • Do not return to normal activities until your doctor says it is safe to do so.
  • Do not drive or return to work until your doctor says it is okay.

Medications

You may need medicines to:

  • Ease pain
  • Ease swelling around the heart
  • Fight an infection
  • Treat causes of pericarditis

Take all the antibiotics you are given. Do this even when you are feeling well.

When taking medicines:

  • Take your medicine as advised. Do not change the amount or schedule.
  • Be aware of the side effects of your medicine. Tell your doctor if you have any.
  • Talk to your doctor before you stop taking any prescription medicine.
  • Do not share your prescription medicine.
  • Medicines can be harmful when mixed. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you are taking more than one. This includes over the counter products and supplements.

Follow-up

Your doctor will need to check on your progress. Be sure to go to all advised appointments.

Problems to Look Out For

Call your doctor if you are not getting better or you have:

  • Chest pain
  • Neck and left shoulder pain
  • Coughing or problems breathing
  • Pain when swallowing
  • Weakness, tiredness, or lightheadedness
  • Signs of infection, such as fever or chills
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fast or skipped heartbeats

If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.

RESOURCES:

American Heart Association
https://www.heart.org

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Health Canada
https://www.canada.ca

Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
https://www.heartandstroke.ca

REFERENCES:

Acute and recurrent pericarditis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/acute-and-recurrent-pericarditis. Accessed May 18, 2021.

Pericarditis. EBSCO Nursing Reference Center website. Available at: https://www.ebscohost.com/nursing/products/nursing-reference-center. Accessed May 18, 2021.

Pericarditis. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/cardiovascular-disorders/myocarditis-and-pericarditis/pericarditis. Accessed May 18, 2021.

Pericarditis. Texas Heart Institute website. Available at https://www.texasheart.org/heart-health/heart-information-center/topics/pericarditis-2. Accessed May 18, 2021.

What is pericarditis? American Heart Association website. Available at https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/pericarditis/what-is-pericarditis#.WS8KjevytQI. Accessed May 18, 2021.

Last reviewed March 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael J. Fucci, DO, FACC  Last Updated: 10/8/2021