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Pericardial Disorders

What are Pericardial Disorders?

The pericardium is a membrane that surrounds your heart. It holds the heart in place and helps it work properly. Both chronic and acute pericarditis can be life-threatening. Many of the symptoms of pericarditis are similar to those of other heart and lung conditions. Problems with the pericardium include:

Acute Pericarditis

Acute pericarditis is an inflammation of the sac. It can be from a virus or other infection, a heart attack, heart surgery, other medical conditions, injuries, and certain medicines.

Cardiac Tamponade

Cardiac tamponade is a serious problem in which the buildup of fluid in the sac causes problems with the function of the heart. It can be from tumors, uremia, or the accumulation in the blood of waste materials that are usually eliminated in the urine, bleeding into the pericardium because of surgery or injury, and bleeding caused by anticoagulants in patients with acute pericarditis.

Chronic Constrictive Pericarditis

Chronic Constrictive Pericarditis is the persistence of pericarditis. This can be life-threatening if left untreated.

Pericardial Effusion

Pericardial effusion is the buildup of fluid in the sac. Your heart may become compressed if the buildup is substantial or occurs quickly, which could result in cardiac tamponade, a potentially fatal medical emergency.

The sooner you are evaluated, the sooner you can receive proper diagnosis and treatment. For example, although the cause of acute chest pain may be pericarditis, the original cause could be a heart attack or a blood clot in the lungs (pulmonary embolus).

What are the symptoms of Pericarditis?

Symptoms of pericardial problems include chest pain, rapid heartbeat, and difficulty breathing. Fever is a common symptom of acute pericarditis. Treatment depends on the cause.

The most common symptoms of acute pericarditis are:

  • Chest pain, tightness, or pressure
  • Pericardial friction rub or murmur
  • Excessive fluid around the heart
  • Dull-chest pain
  • Low-grade fever

Most symptoms of cardiac tamponade include:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Severe drop in blood pressure
  • Weak pulse
  • Decreased heart sounds
  • Distended or bulging veins
  • Bluish skin color, or cyanosis
  • Severe anxiety or panic

Most symptoms of chronic constrictive pericarditis include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Liver enlargement
  • Distended neck veins
  • Ascites, or the accumulation of fluid in the abdomen
  • Edema, or the accumulation of fluid in the extremities

Chest pain that accompanies pericarditis may be worsened by lying down, coughing, breathing deeply, and sometimes by swallowing.

How are Pericardial Disorders treated?

Medication

The physician may treat acute pericarditis by prescribing medications, including:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), such as aspirin or ibuprofen
  • Morphine or codeine
  • Antiarrhythmic drugs
  • Antibiotics
  • Corticosteroids

Pericardiocentesis (pericardial tap)

To prevent fluid reaccumulation, a needle and catheter are sometimes inserted into the pericardium to remove fluid from the sac around the heart. This procedure relieves pressure on the heart and the catheter may be left in place for several days. The fluid may then be sent to a laboratory for tests to look for signs of infection or cancer. If the fluid re-accumulates, the physician may consider surgery to remove a portion of the pericardium so that fluid drains continuously.

Cardiac Surgery

Removal of the stiffened pericardium in a procedure called pericardiectomy is the only cure for chronic constrictive pericarditis.

Cardiology Treatment Centers Near You

Related to Pericardial Disorders

  • At the first sign of a heart attack, every second counts. Our emergency cardiac care team is available 24 hours a day at our four adult hospitals.

Cardiology Specialists Helping Fort Myers and Cape Coral

What is Lee Health's method to Cardiac Care & Pericarditis?

We offer the most advanced and effective treatments to our patients and in many cases, the treatments we provide are not available anywhere else in the region.

Medical Services

In-office procedures (noninvasive):

  • Cardiovascular health evaluation
  • Carotid ultrasound
  • Cardiac imaging
  • Cardiac monitoring
  • Coumadin management
  • 2D and 3D echocardiography
  • EKGs
  • Exercise stress testing
  • Holter monitoring/event recorder
  • Lipid management
  • Nuclear cardiology studies
  • Permanent pacemaker/ICD follow up
  • Vascular studies
  • Rapid diuresis (for heart failure patients)

Hospital procedures (invasive):

  • Transcatheter aortal valve replacement (TAVR)
  • Cardiac catheterization
  • Coronary artery angioplasty and stenting
  • Carotid artery stenting
  • Cardiac electrophysiology
  • Cardioversion
  • Radio-frequency catheter ablation of arrhythmias
  • Permanent pacemaker
  • Implantable defibrillator (ICD)
  • Transesophageal echo (TEE)

Lee Health: Your Trusted Cardiology Specialists For Treating Your Pericarditis

At Lee Health, we use advanced imaging tests to accurately diagnose peripheral artery disease. We work together to evaluate and treat your condition.

Our doctors have expertise in treating people who have pericardial disorders using medications, pericardiocentesis, and pericardiectomy. Our doctors work with you to determine the most appropriate treatment for your condition.

Who should I contact?

If you are an adult with a pericardial disorder, call Lee Health at 239-343-7490

Having chest pain?

In a life-threatening emergency, call 911 or your local emergency number. If you are unable to do so, ask someone to call for you or to take you to the nearest emergency care facility. You may go to any hospital in your area for emergency care.

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