Pericarditis

The heart is surrounded by a double-layered sac called the pericardium. Between these two layers, there is a space known as the pericardial cavity. The pericardial cavity normally contains a small amount of pericardial fluid. This fluid prevents friction between the two layers and helps your heart move easier within the sac. However, if the pericardium is diseased or injured, inflammation can occur. This condition is known as pericarditis. Pericarditis may develop suddenly (acute), gradually (chronic) or it may present itself in patients without remission or in those who’ve recently had early reappearance of symptoms within 4 to 6 weeks after a documented first episode of pericarditis (incessant).

Pericarditis

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Causes of Pericarditis

The cause of pericarditis is often unknown, though viral infections are a common cause.

Other conditions that contribute to the development of pericarditis:

  • Malignancy “cancerous” spread
  • End-stage renal disease: a condition in which your kidneys have stopped working well and your body retains fluid.
  • Tuberculosis
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Viral, bacterial, fungal or parasitic infections.
  • Autoimmune disease: a condition in which your immune system mistakenly attacks your body (e.g. lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and scleroderma).
  • A previous heart attack and/or heart surgery.
  • Injuries from accidents or radiation therapy.
  • Certain medications that treat seizures, blood clots and arrhythmias.

Symptoms of Pericarditis

Common symptoms of pericarditis include:

  • Sharp, piercing chest pain over the center or left side of the chest that last for hours and does not get better when you rest.
  • Shortness of breath
  • Heart palpitations: when you feel like your heart is racing, pounding or fluttering.
  • Lightheadedness/Fainting
  • Confused or impaired thinking
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Decreased urine output
  • Anxiety
  • Swelling of the legs or abdomen
  • Muscle aches

Diagnosis of Pericarditis

The clinical diagnosis of pericarditis is usually based on the patient’s medical history and physical examination findings. As part of your initial physical evaluation, your doctor will also check your heart sounds. Heart sounds particularly made when the pericardial layers rub against each other. After that, you may have:

Diagnostic tests and procedures

Treatment of Pericarditis

Treatment for pericarditis depends on the cause as well as the severity. The majority of cases are self-limiting and get better on their own without treatment. Treatment options include:

Medications

  • Antibiotics will help treat disease caused by bacteria.
  • Anti-inflammatory medications will help reduce inflammation and relief pain.

Medical and surgical procedures

Saint Barnabas Medical Center
94 Old Short Hills Road
Livingston, NJ 07039
(973) 322-5000
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Monmouth Medical Center
300 Second Avenue
Long Branch, NJ 07740
(732) 222-5200
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Monmouth Medical Center Southern Campus
600 River Avenue
Lakewood, NJ 08701
(732) 363-1900
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Clara Maass Medical Center
1 Clara Maass Drive
Belleville, NJ 07109
(973) 450-2000
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Community Medical Center
99 Highway 37 West
Toms River, NJ 08755
(732) 557-8000
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Newark Beth Israel Medical Center
201 Lyons Avenue at Osborne Terrace
Newark, NJ 07112
(973) 926-7000
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Jersey City Medical Center
355 Grand Street
Jersey City, NJ 07302
(201) 915-2000
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RWJ University Hospital Hamilton
1 Hamilton Health Place
Hamilton, NJ 08690
(609) 586-7900
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Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
1 Robert Wood Johnson Place
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
(732) 828-3000
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RWJ University Hospital Rahway
865 Stone Street
Rahway, NJ 07065
(732) 381-4200
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RWJ University Hospital Somerset
110 Rehill Avenue
Somerville, NJ 08876
(908) 685-2200
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Pericarditis Treatment & Care

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