Inflammation of the pericardium

An inflammation of the protective sac around the heart

About pericarditis

The protective sac surrounding your heart is called the pericardium, which has an inner and outer layer. If this becomes inflamed it can cause pain in your chest, usually a sharp, stabbing sensation. It's not normally serious in itself, but it can be alarming and may lead to complications. 

Need to know

  • What are the symptoms of pericarditis? icon plus

    If you develop pericarditis, you'll probably notice some or all of the following:

    • a sharp or stabbing pain in the chest
    • neck pain, which may extend across the shoulders or arms
    • a fever that comes and goes
    • lightheadedness
    • nausea
    • shortness of breath, which may come on suddenly
  • Diagnosing pericarditis icon plus

    Tests for pericarditis can include:

    • a physical assessment
    • looking at your medical history
    • an echocardiogram to detect the presence of fluid
    • an electrocardiogram (ECG) to detect changes to your heart rhythm
    • a chest X-ray
    • blood tests to check for inflammation

    Your consultant will also consider risk factors such as the following, which can cause pericarditis:

    • a previous heart attack
    • a viral or bacterial infection
    • another inflammatory condition
    • kidney failure
    • inflammation of the heart muscle (myocarditis)
  • Potential treatment options icon plus

    Usually you would be prescribed anti-inflammatory painkillers for one or two weeks. If the condition persists, you may be given stronger medication, steroids or antibiotics if the infection is bacterial. On rare occasions, pericarditis can lead to a significant pericardial effusion, a build-up of fluid around the heart, which might need treatment. Most people recover from pericarditis within weeks or sometimes months. If you have chronic pericarditis, you may find that the condition keeps coming back, in which case your consultant will discuss how to manage it.

Our cardiologists

Across the HCA UK network we have cardiac centres of excellence to support our cardiologist and cardiac surgeons. 

Our cardiologists will ensure that tests and diagnostic procedures are carried out in relation to your symptons to diagnose and treat your condition. 

Our locations

From complex cardiothoracic surgery to tests and diagnostic procedures, we provide exceptional cardiac care across our network of hospitals, outpatient centres and specialist clinics.

Book an appointment

Our team can help with any enquiries or you can make an appointment with one of our experienced consultants.

Call us today

020 7079 4344
This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
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