The pericardium is a thin membrane that envelopes and protects the heart. Pericardial disease or pericarditis is an inflammation of the pericardium. Pericarditis is characterised by pericardial friction rub (an audible sound of rubbing heard along with the heart beat), chest pain and changes in an electrocardiogram (ECG, test to evaluate the heart function). It is seen more commonly in men than in women. There are 2 types of pericarditis:
Acute pericarditis may be caused due to:
Chronic pericarditis may occur due to the recurrence of acute pericarditis or due to a chronic infection such as tuberculosis.
In cases of acute pericarditis, you may experience fever, and sudden and intense chest pain that radiates to the neck, shoulder, arms or back. The pain may get worse when taking deep breathes and while changing position. Chronic pericarditis may lead to symptoms such as swelling due to fluid retention in the legs and abdominal region, fatigue and difficulty in breathing.
Some cases of pericardial disease may not show any symptoms.
Your physician may recommend blood and urine tests to determine the cause of infection. Your doctor may order a chest X-ray to assess inflammation. You may also be advised to undergo an ECG and echocardiogram (a test that tracks the echoes of sound waves, bouncing off the heart) to determine the heart’s rhythm and functioning. Your doctor may remove a sample of the pericardial fluid surrounding the heart to identify the organism that has caused the infection. Imaging tests like CT scan and MRI may also be recommended.
Treatment options for pericardial disease may include:
Dr. Andrew Newcomb will discuss all the options with you and decide on the best treatment for pericardial disease.