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What All You Should Know About Pericarditis

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What All You Should Know About Pericarditis

Cardiology | by Dr. Shuvo Dutta | Published on 28/07/2023


Introduction

The human heart is not only the core of emotions but also the guiding force behind our essence. There is a thin, double layered-sac wrapped around this important organ that is known as the pericardium. It performs a vital role to protect the heart and make sure that the heart is functioning smoothly. However, when there is an inflammation problem in this protective shield, it is referred to as pericarditis. 

In this blog, we are going to unravel the intricacies of pericarditis, its symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment options. But before we move on with the discussion, kindly note that this blog is for informational purposes only and does not construe the doctor’s consultation. If you suspect pericarditis, then book your appointment with BM Birla Heart Research Centre in Kolkata, the only cardiac healthcare service in the eastern region. You will find the most talented and experienced doctors here. 

What is pericarditis?

Pericarditis is a condition that causes pericardium inflammation, a thin and two-layered sac filled with fluid covering the heart’s outer surface. It often occurs suddenly and lasts from weeks to months, however, attacks might continue for years. There is additional fluid in the space of pericardial layers sometimes that is known as pericardial effusion. 

What are the types of pericarditis?

The different types of pericarditis are:

  • Acute pericarditis: It is pericardium inflammation that grows abruptly along with the symptoms
  • Chronic pericarditis: This type lasts for around three months or more than that after the acute attack. 
  • Constrictive pericarditis: It interferes with the normal functioning of the heart and is a severe type of pericarditis. It occurs after several attacks of acute pericarditis. 
  • Infectious pericarditis: This type grows as an outcome of viral, bacterial, parasitic infection, or fungal infection.
  • Idiopathic pericarditis: This type doesn’t have any known cause. 
  • Traumatic pericarditis: It grows as a consequence of a chest injury, like after an accident. 
  • Uremic pericarditis: It is an outcome of kidney failure. 
  • Malignant pericarditis: This type occurs because of developing cancer in the body.

What are pericarditis symptoms?

There are various pericarditis symptoms which include:

What are pericarditis causes?

The cause of pericarditis is not known in up to 90% of cases and it is known as idiopathic pericarditis. There are several pericarditis causes which include: 

  • Viral infection complication causing viral pericarditis. The gastrointestinal virus is the main cause
  • Infections like tuberculosis lead to bacterial pericarditis 
  • Fungal pericarditis is caused by a fungal infection 
  • Parasitic pericarditis is an outcome of infection from a parasite 
  • Autoimmune illnesses like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and scleroderma cause pericarditis.
  • Lymphoma leads to the growth of malignant pericarditis 
  • Genetic illnesses like familial Mediterranean fever

How is pericarditis diagnosed?

Healthcare experts involve several tests or methods for pericarditis diagnosis and checking complications. Here are the tests usually recommended: 

  • Chest X-ray: To view the heart size and fluid if filled in the lungs.
  • Electrocardiogram: To determine changes in the heart rhythm as some people might experience changes while some people don’t observe any changes in their heart rhythm. 
  • Echocardiogram: To identify whether the heart is functioning well or not and look for fluid across the heart. 
  • Cardiac MRI: To view fluid in the pericardium, inflammation, thickening, or heart compression.
  • CT Scan: To determine the presence of calcium in the pericardium, fluid, tumors, inflammation, and area diseases around the heart. It is a vital test mainly for the patient who requires surgery for constrictive pericarditis. 
  • Cardiac catheterization: It helps in obtaining all the information related to pressure filling in the heart. It confirms the diagnosis of pericarditis. 
  • Blood tests: It helps in letting the doctor know that the patient is not experiencing a heart attack and the heart is working fine.

There might be a need for other tests for autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. The doctor will identify the need and order the tests accordingly depending on the symptoms of an individual. 

What are the options for pericarditis treatment?

Pericarditis treatment entirely depends on its cause, and after the cause is identified. The doctor involves the treatment methods depending on specific cases and symptoms. In most cases, the condition is not serious and doesn’t require severe treatment options such as medications. 

The primary goal of pericarditis treatment is reducing the pain and inflammation including decreasing the recurrence risk. Here are some of the most common methods used for pericarditis: 

  • NSAIDs: The doctor might recommend the use of over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce inflammation and pain. Drugs like ibuprofen and aspirin help to offer relief faster. If pain is extreme, strong medication might be prescribed by the doctor. 
  • Colchicine: It is an anti-inflammatory drug used for minimizing the duration of the symptoms and averting the recurrences of pericarditis. 
  • Corticosteroids: It helps reduce and manage the pericarditis symptoms. However, these are not recommended often and are only involved in extreme cases as they can increase the risk of pericarditis recurrence. 
  • Surgery: It is required for recurrent pericarditis treatment if other options are not working well. Surgery is recommended by the doctor only as a last-line therapy option.

Conclusion

Concluding the pericarditis treatment, when it comes to recovery, it requires time. Recovery might take weeks for symptoms to entirely go away in certain cases. Most pericarditis cases are not serious and don’t cause complications. For complicated cases, surgery is the most recommended treatment option. You can seek medical help immediately if you experience chest pain. You can also book your appointment with BM Birla Heart Research Centre in Kolkata. They have the best and most highly-skilled talented professionals who offer the right diagnosis and treatment.

FAQ

How to sleep with pericarditis?

These tips will help you sleep better if you have pericarditis: 

  • Find a comfortable sleeping position 
  • You can take pain relief before going to bed 
  • Take professional help if you anxiety 
  • Find out changes that work for you 

Can pericarditis come back?

Yes, pericarditis may come back even after the treatment. 

Does pericarditis show on ECG?

Yes, pericarditis helps to detect ECG