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Acute Pericarditis


The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Jul 2021| Content last modified Jul 2021
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What is acute pericarditis?

"Peri" means all around, "cardiac" refers to your heart, and "itis" means inflammation. So, pericarditis is inflammation of the sac (pericardium What is the pericardium? "Peri" means all around, and "cardiac" refers to your heart. So, the pericardium is the sac that goes around your heart. The pericardium helps: Keep the heart in position Prevent the heart from... read more What is the pericardium? ) that surrounds your heart.

The pericardium is made of 2 thin layers. The space between the layers has some fluid that helps the layers slide easily over one another.

"Acute" means new or sudden. Acute pericarditis is sudden, painful inflammation of the pericardium. Usually, it causes fluid to build up between the layers of the pericardium.

  • Infection, heart attack, and other health problems, such as lupus and cancer, cause acute pericarditis

  • You may have a fever and sharp chest pain, but some people don't have any symptoms

  • To tell if you have acute pericarditis, doctors will do echocardiography

  • To treat it, doctors will give you medicine to lessen pain and swelling, and they may have you stay in the hospital

What causes acute pericarditis?

Causes of acute pericarditis include:

What are the symptoms of acute pericarditis?

Symptoms of acute pericarditis include:

  • Fever

  • Sharp chest pain

The pain may go down your left shoulder and arm and get worse when laying down, swallowing food, coughing, or breathing deeply.

How can doctors tell if I have acute pericarditis?

How do doctors treat acute pericarditis?

Doctors treat the cause of acute pericarditis. They also give you medicine to lessen your pain and swelling, such as:

  • Anti-inflammatory medicine, such as aspirin

  • An opioid, such as morphine, for severe pain

  • A corticosteroid to lessen swelling

If medicine isn’t helping or a lot of fluid has built up, doctors may:

  • Have you stay in the hospital to monitor your progress

  • Do surgery to drain the fluid from your pericardium

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