Man clutching his chest


What is pericarditis?

Pericarditis is inflammation of the pericardium, which is a protective fluid-filled sac that surrounds the heart.

When the pericardium becomes inflamed it causes the two layers of thin tissue that make up this sac to swell and rub together causing irritation.

The main types of pericarditis include:

What is the difference between pericarditis and myocarditis?

While pericarditis is inflammation of the pericardium surrounding the heart, myocarditis is inflammation of the heart muscle itself (known as the myocardium).

It is not uncommon for these two conditions to occur together, in which case the condition is called myo-pericarditis.

What are the symptoms of pericarditis?

The most common symptom of pericarditis is chest pain.

For most people this will be a sharp, stabbing pain, but it may also be a dull, aching pain.

The pain may:

Other symptoms include:

Symptoms of pericarditis may mimic other common conditions such as heart attack, so it is important to seek medical advice immediately.

What causes pericarditis?

Causes of pericarditis can include:

The cause of pericarditis may not be able to be identified in all patients.

How is pericarditis diagnosed?

Your doctor may perform the following tests to diagnose pericarditis:

How is pericarditis treated?

Treatment for pericarditis will depend on the severity and type of pericarditis.

Treatment options may include:

How can pericarditis be prevented?

It’s not possible to prevent pericarditis, though you can take steps to reduce your risk of developing the underlying conditions that can lead to pericarditis, such as viral infections and heart attack.

Those with acute pericarditis should seek appropriate treatment to reduce the risk of recurring pericarditis, chronic pericarditis or complications associated with pericarditis.

Acknowledgement of Country

The Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute acknowledges Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures; and to Elders past and present.

Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute - The Home of Heart Research for 30 Years