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Disorders of the Pericardium (Outer Lining of the Heart)


Pericarditis is a swelling and irritation of the pericardium which is a thin sac-like membrane surrounding the heart. It can be also explained as an inflammation and the pericardium usually looks red and swollen in this condition. Pericarditis is usually acute and it develops suddenly and may last up to several months. Pericarditis can be differentiated in two ways: Acute pericarditis and chronic pericarditis. Acute pericarditis usually lasts less than a few weeks. The pain of acute pericarditis may travel into the left shoulder and neck and intensifies when lying down or inhale deeply. Chronic pericarditis is associated with chronic inflammation which results in fluid around the heart leading to a condition known as pericardial effusion. Chronic pericarditis usually lasts six months or longer.

Symptoms of pericarditis include

  • Acute chest pain over the center or left side of the chest
  • Shortness of breath while lying down.
  • Low-grade fever
  • Feeling of weakness, fatigue
  • Dry cough
  • Abdominal or leg swelling

Causes of pericarditis are

  • Viral infection
  • Heart attack or heart surgery
  • Systemic inflammatory disorders.
  • Trauma caused by an accident.
  • Other health disorders like kidney failure, AIDS, tuberculosis and cancer.
  • Certain medications.

Treatments for Pericarditis are

  • Colchicine (Colcrys): This drug reduces the length of pericarditis symptoms and decrease the risk that the condition recurring.
  • Pericardiocentesis: In this procedure, a sterile needle or a catheter is used to remove and drain excess fluid from the pericardial cavity.
  • Pericardiectomy: It is a surgical procedure in which the entire pericardium that has become rigid, making it hard for the heart to pump is removed.