Pericarditis Treatment

  • Treatment

    Seek immediate medical attention whenever you feel chest pain. Chest pain can be caused by several urgent conditions, including heart attack, tearing of the aorta, a collapsed lung, a blood clot in the lung, and tearing of parts of the digestive tract, including the esophagus and stomach. Therefore, it is important to determine the cause of chest pain and receive prompt, appropriate care.

    Though pericarditis itself is usually not a life-threatening condition, serious complications of pericarditis, such as cardiac tamponade, can arise.

    Depending on the cause, pericarditis can be treated successfully. The bacterial and tubercular types of pericarditis tend to be more dangerous than other types.

    Cardiac tamponade, a complication of pericarditis, is an emergency situation that occurs when fluid collected in the pericardial sac prevents the heart from filling completely. When the heart cannot fill completely, the heart pumps less blood, blood pressure drops, and fluid backs up, causing the lungs and other tissues to become congested. Weakness, dizziness, and shortness of breath are common symptoms. Shock and death can also occur. Immediate treatment at an emergency room is necessary.

    Your doctor is the best source of information on the drug treatment choices available to you.

    You may need to reduce your activity level or go on bed rest to reduce the workload on your heart.

    Excess fluid in the pericardial sac may need to be removed surgically. Excess fluid in the pericardial sac can compress the chambers of the heart. If enough fluid collects in the pericardial sac to compromise heart function, a surgical procedure called pericardiocentesis may be recommended. During this procedure, a thin hollow needle is carefully inserted through the chest wall into the pericardial sac. The excess fluid is then drained through the needle. A small rubber drain is often left in place for about a day to allow constant drainage of the remaining fluid.

    In severe cases, surgical removal of part of the pericardium may be required. In chronic or recurrent cases of pericarditis, surgical removal of part of the thickened pericardium may be recommended. During this procedure, called a pericardiectomy, the thickened pericardial lining is stripped from the outer wall of the heart. Because this is a complicated and dangerous procedure, it is only performed in cases when heart function is severely compromised.

    Most cases of acute pericarditis resolve within a few weeks, and leave no permanent cardiac problems.

    Most patients with viral pericarditis recover within one month and have no further complications. Symptoms also usually subside in one month or less in other forms of pericarditis, such as pericarditis caused by heart attack or chest trauma. In other forms of pericarditis, especially pericarditis caused by autoimmune diseases such as lupus, the condition may become chronic.

    Recurrent pericarditis is somewhat common. Up to 20% of recovered patients suffer at least one recurrence. If recurrences are common and last more than two years, a pericardiectomy may be necessary.

    Because symptoms can quickly worsen and complications can arise, patients with pericarditis should be observed closely.

Recommended Reading

Meet the Pharmacists

I'm Beth Isaac, PharmD. Welcome to PDR Health!

Check out my latest post on cholesterol drugs.

Pericarditis Related Drugs