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Pericarditis

What is pericarditis?

Pericarditis is inflammation of the pericardium, the thin sac (membrane) that surrounds the heart. There is a small amount of fluid between the inner and outer layers of the pericardium. When the pericardium becomes inflamed, the amount of fluid between its two layers increases, causing a pericardial effusion. If the amount of fluid increases quickly, the effusion caused can impair the ability of the heart to function properly. This condition is called pericardial tamponade.

What causes pericarditis?

Usually, the cause of pericarditis is unknown, but may include any/all of the following:

• heart attack

• infection (viral, bacterial, fungal, parasitic)

• chest trauma or injury

• cancer spreading from a nearby tumor in the lung, breast, or the blood

• connective tissue disorders (i.e., lupus erythematosus)

• heart surgery

Treatment for pericarditis:

Specific treatment will be determined by your physician based on:

• your age, overall health, and medical history

• extent of the disease

• cause of the disease

• your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies

• expectations for the course of the disease

• your opinion or preference