Pericarditis is an inflammation of the pericardium, a protective lining that surrounds the heart. Pericarditis can be caused by infection, heart attack, autoimmune disorders, chest trauma, cancer, kidney failure, or drugs. Infections that can cause pericarditis include viral infections, bacterial infections, tuberculosis and fungal infections. Autoimmune disorders that can cause pericarditis include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and scleroderma.
Pericarditis occurs in up to 15 percent of patients who have heart attacks. There is also a late form of post-heart-attack pericarditis, called Dressler’s syndrome that occurs weeks to months after the heart attack.
Some of the drugs that can produce pericarditis include procainamide, hydralazine, phenytoin, and isoniazid. Many forms of cancer can spread to the pericardial sac, and produce pericarditis.
The most common symptom caused by pericarditis is chest pain. Patients can also have shortness of breath, or fever.
Acute pericarditis is treated by giving anti-inflammatory drugs (to reduce inflammation and help prevent chronic problems) and by giving analgesics for pain control. Most cases of acute pericarditis resolve within a few weeks, and leave no permanent cardiac problems.