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Pericardial Disease

Pericardial disease, or pericarditis, is an inflammatory condition that may affect any one or multiple layers of the pericardium. The pericardium is comprised of several thin layers of fluid-filled tissue that surround the heart.

The Components of the Pericardium

There are two primary layers of the pericardium, which include:

  • Fibrous pericardium: The outermost layer of the pericardium is comprised of thick connective tissues. These tissues connect to the diaphragm, which helps to suspend the heart within the chest cavity and protect it from potential infections.
  • Serous pericardium: The inner layer of the pericardium is known as the serous pericardium, which is divided into two sub-layers that are separated by fluid to prevent friction between them:
    • The visceral layers: The interior layer that envelops the heart.
    • The parietal layers: A more fibrous layer that contains the visceral layers of the pericardium.

While this structure may seem a bit complex, all pieces of the pericardium are necessary to position the heart and shield it from possible damage.

What Is Pericardial Disease?

If one or several layers of the pericardium becomes inflamed, it becomes a case of pericardial disease or pericarditis. Depending on the location and severity of the inflammation, pericardial disease may be categorized as one of the multiple types of pericardial disease.

A majority of pericardial disease is attributed to acute pericarditis, which is a clinical syndrome characterized by several unique symptoms.

Symptoms of Pericarditis

If a patient’s case of pericarditis does in fact present symptoms, they are most likely to occur as pain in the chest that may radiate to the shoulders, neck, arms, and back. This pain can worsen while the individual is lying down, or as they cough or swallow. Additional pericardial disease symptoms often reported by those with pericarditis include an increased heart rate and low-grade fever.

Causes of Pericarditis

This condition is most often the result of trauma to the heart such as a heart attack or heart surgery, or often as a side effect of treatment of cancer within the body. Other common causes of pericardial disease include infections, tumors, and autoimmune diseases.

Diagnosing Types of Pericardial Disease

Diagnostic testing can help to identify cases of pericarditis, even for patients that do not present significant symptoms of the condition. One of our cardiologists will begin this process by completing a physical examination of the patient to assess whether any surface-level indicators exist.

Additional testing is typically completed to definitively confirm or deny a case of pericardial disease. Such imaging scans are often comprised of one or more of the following examinations:

  • Echocardiogram
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG)
  • Cardiac MRI

Visit Med Group NJ for Pericardial Disease Treatment

A large number of patients will utilize one of the following methods to relieve their symptoms of pericardial disease:

  • Anti-inflammatories or NSAIDs
  • Antibiotics to clear out an infection
  • Colchicine for recurrent pericardial disease
  • Steroid injections for severe attacks

Once one of our cardiologists has accurately diagnosed a patient with pericardial disease, they will be able to begin offering their professional recommendations on how to proceed with treatment. These recommendations can vary based on the particular patient, what type of pericardial disease they have, the cause of their condition, and how advanced the disease has become.

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