| Risk Factors
Pericarditis is an inflammation of the sac around the heart. In some cases, the inflammation may cause fluid to build up in the sac and make it difficult for the heart to move.
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The exact cause of pericarditis is often unknown. Infections, injuries or chronic disease may be involved in some cases.
Factors that increase the risk for pericarditis include:
- Weakened immune system that is not able to fight off infections and other diseases
- Surgery to repair heart defects or heart disease
- Infection from virus, bacteria, parasite, or fungus
- Chest trauma or injury
Connective tissue disorders, like
Chest pain is a common symptom. It may start over the left side or center of the chest and spread to the neck and left shoulder. The pain is usually a sharp, stabbing pain that may be worse with deep breathing or lying down.
Other symptoms may include:
- Shortness of breath
- Fever and chills
- Pain when swallowing
- Weakness and fatigue
- Loss of appetite
- Irregular heartbeat
Notify your child’s doctor if your child has these symptoms.
The doctor will ask about your child’s symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. The doctor will listen for a grating or rubbing sound in your child’s heart. If the condition is severe, there may also be a crackle sound in your child’s lungs. The following tests may be done:
- Chest x-ray
—to show heart size and build-up of fluid
(ECG or EKG)—to show electrical activity of the heart
—to show heart wall motion, heart size, and build-up of fluid
- Blood tests—to help determine causes
- Pericardiocentesis—drawing a sample of the fluid in the pericardium using a needle to test the fluid for infections
Heart or chest
—to obtain more detailed images
The illness can range from mild to life-threatening. Acute inflammatory pericarditis usually improves with treatment within a few weeks or months. Pericarditis caused by chronic inflammatory diseases, like lupus or
rheumatoid arthritis, may last longer or tend to recur.
Treatment options include:
The doctor may recommend medication to:
- Decrease inflammation
- Manage pain—may be over-the-counter or prescription medication depending on the degree of pain
Antibiotics may be given if the pericarditis is associated with a bacterial infection.
For severe pericarditis, your child may need:
- Pericardiocentesis—fluid around the heart is removed with a needle.
- Pericadiectomy—the sac around the heart is removed (rarely done).
If your child is diagnosed with pericarditis, follow the doctor's instructions.
There is no known way to prevent pericarditis.
Cincinnati Children's. Pericarditis. Cincinnati Children's website. Available at:
http://www.cincinnatichildrens.org/health/info/heart/diagnose/peri.htm. Updated June 2010. Accessed June 20, 2013.
Pericarditis in children. Oregon Health and Science University website. Available at
http://www.ohsu.edu/xd/health/health-information/topic-by-id.cfm?ContentTypeId=90&ContentId=P01812. Accessed June 20, 2013.
Pericarditis. Seattle Children's Hospital website. Available at
http://www.americanheart.org. Accessed June 20, 2013.
Last reviewed December 2012 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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