Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

Pericarditis diagnosis is usually confirmed by ECG.

Pericarditis diagnosis is usually confirmed by ECG.
beginning of content

Pericarditis

Pericarditis is inflammation of the pericardium, the thin sac-like membrane around your heart. It becomes swollen and irritated. Pericarditis often causes chest pain and sometimes other symptoms.

Most people with pericarditis need monitoring and treatment to reduce the pain and swelling.

If complications develop, surgery may be needed.

Types of pericarditis

The main types of pericarditis are:

  • acute pericarditis – symptoms begin suddenly, but don’t last long
  • chronic pericarditis – symptoms develop gradually and persist, or may persist after an acute attack
  • recurring pericarditis – repeated attacks of acute pericarditis.

What causes pericarditis?

Usually the cause of pericarditis can’t be found. A viral infection is often suspected, but is difficult to confirm.

Pericarditis can also develop after a heart attack. Other less common causes include autoimmune disorders, complication of a bacterial infection, and heart or chest injury.

Pericarditis symptoms?

The most common symptom of pericarditis is sharp, piercing chest pain in the centre or left hand of your chest.

Depending on the cause of pericarditis, symptoms may also include:

Complications of pericarditis can be:

  • constrictive pericarditis – permanent thickening and scarring of the pericardium which stops the heart beating properly, often leading to severe swelling of the legs and abdomen.

  • cardiac tamponade – a dangerous condition, where too much fluid collects in the pericardium, which puts pressure on the heart and causes blood pressure to drop dramatically. This is life-threatening and requires emergency treatment.

How is pericarditis diagnosed?

Your doctor may perform a physical examination and listen to your heart using a stethoscope. They may also run blood and other tests, and suggest that you have a chest X-ray to check the size and shape of your heart, or other imaging such as CT scan or MRI scan.

Pericarditis is usually confirmed by electrocardiogram (ECG), which measures the electrical activity of your heart.

How is pericarditis treated?

Treatment will depend on type of pericarditis you have, and may include:

If an underlying cause is found, it will be treated where possible. You may also be monitored for potential complications.

Last reviewed: August 2017

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Found 8 results

Pericarditis

Pericarditis symptoms may be similar to those of heart attack and include chest pain and abnormal heart rhythms.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Breathlessness (shortness of breath) information | myVMC

Breathlessness and wheezing, also known as dyspnoea or difficulty breathing, may be a symptom of heart and lung diseases like COPD and emphysema.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

ECG test

A doctor may recommend an electrocardiogram for patients who may be at risk of heart disease because of family history, smoking, overweight, diabetes or other conditions.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Tirofiban AC Concentrate for infusion - myDr.com.au

Tirofiban AC Concentrate for infusion - Consumer Medicines Information leaflets of prescription and over-the-counter medicines

Read more on myDr – Consumer Medicine Information website

Aggrastat Concentrate for infusion - myDr.com.au

Aggrastat Concentrate for infusion - Consumer Medicines Information leaflets of prescription and over-the-counter medicines

Read more on myDr – Consumer Medicine Information website

Cardiac Tamponade | myVMC

Cardiac tamponade is the compression of the heart caused by blood or fluid accumulating in the space between the myocardium (heart muscle) and the pericardium (the outer covering sac of the heart)

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Persantin Ampoules Solution for injection - myDr.com.au

Persantin Ampoules Solution for injection - Consumer Medicines Information leaflets of prescription and over-the-counter medicines

Read more on myDr – Consumer Medicine Information website

Heart attack - myDr.com.au

A heart attack (myocardial infarction) means the blood supply to part of the heart muscle has become blocked. Early treatment can reduce damage to the muscle.

Read more on myDr website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo
Feedback