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The specialized heart doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center expertly diagnose and treat people with pericarditis, an inflammation of the two layers of the pericardium, the sac-like membrane around the heart.

Combining skill and experience with the newest science-based tools and techniques, our team offers both nonsurgical and surgical treatments for pericarditis.

Advanced Treatments for Cardiac Inflammation

Pericarditis can lead to complications that include irregular heart rhythms, cardiac tamponade, and constrictive pericarditis. Pericarditis most often affects men between the ages of 20 and 50 who have upper respiratory infections. 

UT Southwestern’s specialized heart doctors offer the most advanced tools and technologies to expertly diagnose and treat pericarditis. Our team of experts works closely with patients and their families to choose the most appropriate treatment to improve quality of life. 

Causes of Pericarditis

Causes of pericarditis include:

  • Complications from viral infections, such as adenovirus, polio, influenza, and rubella
  • Bacterial infections
  • Fungal infections, which can lead to acute pericarditis 

Heart attacks, rheumatoid arthritis, tuberculosis, cancer, and kidney failure are also associated with pericarditis. 

Pericarditis Symptoms

Symptoms of pericarditis can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Chest pain, usually relieved when sitting, that can extend to the neck, shoulders, back, or abdomen
  • Difficulty breathing when lying down
  • Dry cough
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Rapid breathing

Pericarditis Diagnosis

UT Southwestern cardiologists might perform several tests to diagnose pericarditis. Common diagnostic tests include:

  • Cardiac catheterization: To see the heart’s blood vessels and valves
  • Chest X-ray: To look for a shadow around the heart that is shaped like a water bottle
  • Blood work: To check for markers of inflammation; might include a complete blood count (CBC) and/or C-reactive protein (CRP) test
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG): To distinguish from heart attacks by using specific cardiac markers
  • Echocardiogram (echo or cardiac ultrasound): To distinguish from heart attacks by using specific cardiac markers
  • Cardiac MRI: To look for evidence of inflammation around the heart
  • Stethoscope exam: To listen for sounds of friction between the two layers of the pericardium, muffled or distant sounds, and lower breath sounds indicating pleural effusion 

Pericarditis Treatments

Treatments for pericarditis include:

  • Aspirin or ibuprofen: Medications to reduce inflammation
  • Corticosteroids and analgesics: Medications to relieve pain
  • Diuretics: Medications to reduce fluid accumulation
  • Pericardiectomy: Surgical removal of a portion or all of the pericardium (also called pericardial stripping)
  • Pericardiocentesis: A procedure to draw fluid from the heart with a needle when cardiac tamponade is present

Support Services

UT Southwestern’s cardiac rehabilitation specialists create customized plans that integrate proper nutrition, exercise, and, if necessary, nicotine cessation into patients’ lifestyles to improve their cardiovascular health. 

Clinical Trials

As one of the nation’s top academic medical centers, UT Southwestern offers a number of clinical trials aimed at improving the outcomes of patients with cardiovascular disease. Clinical trials often give patients access to leading-edge treatments that are not yet widely available. Eligible patients who choose to participate in one of UT Southwestern’s clinical trials might receive treatments years before they are available to the public.

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