Pericardial Disease, or Pericarditis, is a rare condition and means the lining that surrounds your heart is inflamed. This is usually caused by an infection. Pericardial Disease can occur in any or all of the three layers around the heart, called the pericardium.
The pericardium is a sac made of thin tissue that surrounds the heart and consists of:
- Visceral pericardium — an inner layer that completely surrounds the entire heart
- A middle fluid layer which is meant to prevent friction between the visceral pericardium and parietal pericardium
- Parietal pericardium — the outer layer, made of fibrous tissue
Causes of Pericardial disease include:
- Heart surgery
- Heart attack
- Autoimmune diseases (such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or scleroderma)
For some people, no cause can be found. Pericarditis can come on suddenly be a long-standing (chronic) issue.
When present, symptoms of pericarditis may include:
- Chest pain
- Low-grade fever.
- Increased heart rate.
Your doctor can diagnose pericarditis based on:
- Reported symptoms
- Electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) results
- Cardiac MRI
- Physical exam
Sometimes other diagnostic tests are used, such as:
- Cardiac catheterization
- CT scan
Treatment of pericarditis is based on the cause and may include:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents (NSAIDs) to decrease the pain and inflammation
- Steroids, used occasionally for severe attacks
- Antibiotics, if the pericarditis is due to infection
- Colchicine, particularly if symptoms last for several weeks or occur on a repetitive basis
Most patients recover from pericarditis in two to four weeks.