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Pericarditis

Inflammation of the pericardium

An inflammation of the protective sac around the heart

About

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

  • 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
  • Diagnosis 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.
Consultant in theatres

Our consultants

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

Our facilities

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

  • London Bridge Hospital Facility

    London Bridge Hospital

    27 Tooley Street

    London

    SE1 2PR

    Appointments and Enquiries 020 7234 2009
    Imaging Appointments. 020 7234 2773
    Switchboard 020 7407 3100

  • The Wellington Hospital

    The Wellington Hospital

    Wellington Place

    London NW8 9LE

    Appointments 0207 483 5148
    Enquiries 020 3131 7478

  • The Lister Hospital Facility

    The Lister Hospital

    Chelsea Bridge Road

    London

    SW1W 8RH

    Appointments 020 7811 4000
    Enquiries 020 3131 4978

  • facility-HSC-flag-hero-582x582

    The Harley Street Clinic

    35 Weymouth Street

    London

    W1G 8BJ

    Appointments 020 7034 8181
    Enquiries 020 3131 7962

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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