Overview of Pericardial Disease
"Peri" means all around, and "cardiac" refers to your heart. So, the pericardium is the sac that goes around your heart. The pericardium helps:
Even though the pericardium is useful, you don't need it to live. If your pericardium is removed, your heart keeps working.
The pericardium is made of 2 thin layers. The space between the 2 layers has some fluid that helps the layers slide easily over one another.
Rarely, the pericardium is missing at birth or has defects, such as weak spots or holes. These defects can be dangerous because the heart or a major blood vessel may bulge (herniate) through a hole and become trapped. Doctors do surgery to fix the hole or remove the pericardium.
Infections, injuries, and the spread of cancer can trigger disorders affecting the pericardium.
The most common disorder is
Pericarditis, which is inflammation of the pericardium
Pericarditis may be:
Acute—inflammation starts shortly after the triggering illness
Subacute—inflammation starts a few weeks to a few months after a triggering illness
Chronic—inflammation that lasts longer than 6 months
Other disorders of the pericardium include:
Pericardial effusion—too much fluid stays in the pericardial space, which can stop the heart from properly filling with blood
Constrictive pericarditis—the fluid in the pericardium becomes thick and fibrous and causes the layers of the pericardium to stick together
Fibrosis of the pericardium—the pericardium gets thick and scarred
Hemopericardium—blood gets in the pericardial space and can cause pericarditis or scarring