Pericarditis is inflammation of the sac that surrounds and protects
the heart (pericardium). Pericarditis can cause an abnormal buildup of fluid
between the pericardium and the heart (pericardial effusion).
Pericarditis often improves without causing any damage to the
heart. But if pericarditis causes excess fluid to build up quickly,
pressure on the heart increases (cardiac tamponade), and the heart may
The most common cause of pericarditis is infection with a virus.
Other causes include bacterial infection, heart attack, chest injury, and medicine side effects.
Symptoms of pericarditis include:
Severe, sudden pain in the center or the left
side of the chest that may spread to the neck, back, shoulders, or arms.
Breathing deeply, moving, or lying down often makes the pain worse. Sitting up
and leaning forward may relieve the pain.
general feeling of weakness or fatigue.
Treatment for pericarditis may include medicines to reduce
inflammation and relieve pain and antibiotics if the cause is a bacterial
infection. If there is any fluid buildup, it may be drained.
Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology & Stephen Fort, MD, MRCP, FRCPC - Interventional Cardiology
The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.