Pericarditis (Inflammation of pericardium)

Pericarditis is inflammation of the pericardium. It is usually acute, i.e. it develops suddenly and may continue for several months. You could see that this membrane surrounding the heart is irritated and swollen just like an inflamed cut on your skin. It sometimes causes accumulation of excess fluid around the heart.

Pericardium is a thin, bilayer and fluid-filled sac that covers outer surface of the heart. It protects the heart from infection and malignancy, and allows the heart to stay in the chest wall. In addition, when blood volume is increased, it prevents excessive expansion of the heart, ensuring that the heart continues to function effectively.

The most common symptoms of pericarditis include:

  • Chest pain
    • Sharp and as if you are being stabbed
    • It may get worse by coughing , swallowing , deep breathing or stretching
    • It is reduces by sitting and bending forward
  • Pain in the back, neck or left shoulder
  • Difficulty in breathing while lying down
  • Dry cough
  • Anxiety ( bouts of depression ) or fatigue

Most cases of pericarditis occur in men aged 20-50. However, it can also occur in women.

There are many causes of pericarditis but it is a complication usually caused by a virus. However, diseases such as rheumatic fever, fungal infections, chest injuries after an accident, renal failure, genetic diseases such as familial Mediterranean fever also cause pericarditis.

In most patients with pericarditis, medication therapy is sufficient and does not require surgery in general.

Sometimes build-up of fluid in the pericardium causes a heart spasm. In such a case, excess fluid must be drained.

Some patients with constrictive pericarditis may require surgery. Pericardiectomy is a surgery in which a portion of the pericardium is removed. Recurrent pericarditis rarely involves surgery to control pain.