Acute Nonsuppurative Pericarditis
- The heart and the blood vessels
emerging from it are covered by a sac called the
pericardium. This sac has an outer and inner layer normally
separated by a small amount of lubricating fluid. Conditions
that irritate the pericardium cause a localized and
protective body response known as inflammation. This may
result in an increase in the amount of fluid (pericardial
effusion) between the outer and inner layers that may
compress the heart and restrict its pumping action.
- In constrictive Pericarditis there is
a thickening of the pericardium and attachment to the heart
that may restrict its normal movements.
- In pericardial or Cardiac Tamponade
(PT), blood or fluid can also collect in the pericardium and cause heart problems. PT can result with any type of Pericarditis.
- Pericarditis may be acute (less than 6 weeks) or chronic (>6 weeks).
- Sharp or stabbing
- Worse on breathing in or with
- Radiating to neck, back, shoulders,
- Reduced by sitting up or leaning forward
- Worse with lying down
Better when standing, sitting, or bent
- Racing Heart
- Pounding in the Chest
- Loss of appetite
- With constrictive Pericarditis and Pericardial Tamponade, there is pressure on the heart from thick fibrous material or fluids (>120cc) that compromises the heart's ability to pump, and fluids may build up in the abdomen, ankles, and feet (right-sided Heart Failure).
Viruses -- Coxsackie B (especially children), adenovirus (especially children), Mumps
, Epstein-Barr, echo virus, Herpes Simplex
- Bacteria -- Staphylococcus, Haemophilus (especially children), pneumococcus,
Salmonella, Lyme Disease,
- Acute Rheumatic Fever
- Mycobacterium --
- Fungi -- candida, nocardi, Histoplasmosis
- Mesothelioma -- tumors
caused by exposure to asbestos
- Connective tissue diseases:
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- SLE ( Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
- Diseases and other
- Uremia -- kidney failure
- Aortic Dissection --
aorta (major artery) can rupture
- Chylopericardium (milky fluid inside
- Myxedema -- severe
- Dressler's syndrome -- Pericarditis long
after a heart attack
- Radiation of any cause -- constrictive Pericarditis
- Radiation therapy
- Acute Pericarditis can result in Pericardial Tamponade and can lead to chronic or constrictive Pericarditis.
- Examination and history
- Physician may consult with a heart specialist (cardiologist)
- Patient is in pain and anxious.
- Patient is leaning forward and unable to lie flat.
- Rapid shallow breathing may be present.
- Doctor may hear a friction rub -- (using a stethoscope) a scratchy noise is heard over the chest, as the two layers of the pericardium rub against each other.
- Listening to the lower back, the doctor may hear Fluid in the Lungs (rales).
- Pulse rate may speed up and then normalize.
- Fever may be detected.
- All the same signs or symptoms as with acute Pericarditis
- Patient is pale or with bluish lips (cyanosis)
- Weak or absent pulse
- Rapid, thready pulse rate
- Low or no blood pressure (BP)
- There may be >10 mm Hg drop in systolic BP (the number on top when BP is measured) when the patient breaths in (pulsus paradoxus).
- Putting his hands over the heart, the doctor may feel little activity.
Lungs may be clear when listened to.
- There may be friction rub.
- There may be muffled or distant heart sounds, Low BP, and distended neck veins (jugular veins) known as Beck's triad.
- Often a history of acute Pericarditis or viral illness
- Shortness of breath (dyspnea)
- Listening to the lungs one may hear rales.
- Listening to the heart, one may hear an abnormal sound known as a knock.
- Swollen ankles, legs, arms, and abdomen
- Distended jugular veins
- Kussmaul's sign -- upon inspiration, the pressure in the jugular veins increase and distend the veins.
- Blood samples -- show an increase in
white blood cells and ESR, due to inflammation.
- Heart chemicals (enzymes) can also be elevated (i.e., CK, LDH) in the blood. Liver enzymes may be elevated if there is right-sided Heart Failure.
or EKG -- (recording of electrical activities of the heart) in Pericarditis has a
- Echocardiograph (echo) - uses sound
waves to show a picture of the heart and pericardium. Echo
can show if fluid is present. Using echo, a cardiologist can
insert a needle in between the pericardial layers, and draw
out a small amount of fluid (percardiocentesis), or take a
small piece of pericardium (pericardial biopsy). The fluid
or sample is then sent to a laboratory, where its contents
and source are identified.
- Cardiac catheterization (CC) -- uses
a long wire inserted through the thigh vein and guided to
the heart, in order to measure pressure changes inside the
- CC is useful when constrictive or tamponade Pericarditis is
compressing the heart.
- Chest CAT scan and MRI can provide detailed and clear pictures of the heart, such as the presence of a thick and calcified (Calcium deposits) pericardium in the case of chronic or constrictive Pericarditis.
- See causes
- Chest Trauma -- open-heart surgery (postpericardiotomy) and stabbing may cause constrictive Pericarditis
- Men > Women
- Age -- adolescents and young men
- Upper respiratory infections --
- Mild cases -- outpatient treatment:
- Aspirin or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (i.e., NSAIDS such as Motrin, Indocin, etc.) for
2 weeks. Side effects include stomach upset, bleeding, and
- Prednisone pills for 2-4 weeks
can also be used to reduce inflammation of the
pericardium. Side effects include stomach ulcers and
infections. This medicine cannot be stopped suddenly, but
must be tapered.
- Azothioprine and Phenylbutazone are also used in some cases, but have many side effects.
- In-patient therapy is recommended if there are signs of heart problems (shock, Low Blood Pressure,
very irregular or rapid heart beat):
- Monitor patient with serial EKG
- Drain fluids as soon as possible
- If medication and fluid drainage is not effective, or in cases of severe constrictive Pericarditis with Heart Failure, a cardiac surgeon may be called in to remove the pericardium (pericardiectomy).
doctor immediately. Call 911 if there is any pressure or
pain in the chest, sweating or shortness of breath.
- Heart attack
- Pneumonia --
- Pleurisy --
of the sac covering the lung
- Pancreatitis -- inflammation of the
- Pulmonary Emboli -- blood clot in the lung
- Cholecystitis --
inflammation of the gallbladder
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