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Pericarditis is a condition in which the membrane, or sac, around your heart is inflamed. This sac is called the pericardium. NIH - National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

About Pericarditis

Pericarditis (PER-ih-kar-DI-tis) is a condition in which the membrane, or sac, around your heart is inflamed. This sac is called the pericardium (per-ih-KAR-de-um).

The pericardium holds the heart in place and helps it work properly. The sac is made of two thin layers of tissue that enclose your heart. Between the two layers is a small amount of fluid. This fluid keeps the layers from rubbing against each other and causing friction.

In pericarditis, the layers of tissue become inflamed and can rub against the heart. This causes chest pain, a common symptom of pericarditis.

The chest pain from pericarditis may feel like pain from a heart attack. More often, the pain may be sharp and get worse when you inhale, and improve when you are sitting up and leaning forward. If you have chest pain, you should call 9-1-1 right away, as you may be having a heart attack.


In many cases, the cause... Read more about Pericarditis

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Colchicine for the treatment of acute and recurrent pericarditis

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the literature with colchicine for the acute treatment of pericarditis and prevention of recurrent pericarditis.

Colchicine for the prevention of pericarditis: what we know and what we do not know in 2014 – systematic review and meta-analysis

AIMS: The purpose of this study was to investigate and summarize available evidence on the efficacy and safety of colchicine for pericarditis prevention. Disease recurrence is the major and most common complication of pericarditis and its prevention may reduce morbidity and management costs. Colchicine has been intensively studied in the last decade for pericarditis prevention.

Efficacy and safety of colchicine for pericarditis prevention. Systematic review and meta-analysis

The authors concluded that the available evidence suggested that colchicine was safe and effective for the primary or secondary prevention of pericarditis. The authors' cautious conclusions reflect the evidence presented, but the small number of included trials, and their small samples, should be considered.

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Summaries for consumers

Systematic review of randomised controlled trials about the efficacy and safety of colchicine in people with pericarditis

Pericarditis is the inflammation and swelling of the tissue covering the outer layer of the heart. Pericarditis causes severe and disabling chest pain and fever, however the main issue is the repeated recurrence of pericarditis attacks. Colchicine is an ancient medication that has been used in the treatment of other inflammatory diseases such as gout.

Tuberculosis infection of the membrane around the heart is uncommon but life threatening. There is little reliable research on best practice in relation to what drugs to give and when and how to operate.

Currently doctors prescribe antituberculous drugs and remove the membrane if it is making the patient ill. However, doctors vary in the way they manage this condition in terms of what antituberculous drugs to give and when to operate. We found no clinical trials that tackled the length of anti‐TB treatment needed. Trials of steroids given with antituberculous drugs suggest possible benefit, but this was not demonstrated conclusively. Open surgical drainage of the fluid accumulating between the heart and the membrane using general anaesthesia was associated with less life threatening re‐accumulation of fluid (cardiac tamponade), but with more deaths, but conclusions are not possible as the numbers of patients studied was too small.

Adjunctive steroid therapy for managing pulmonary tuberculosis

Pulmonary tuberculosis is a common infectious disease. Although curable with standard anti‐pulmonary tuberculosis drugs, it has been reported that an individuals recovery could be improved by adding corticosteroids to their treatment. Current clinical guidelines advise the use of corticosteroids for treatment of other types of tuberculosis; tuberculosis meningitis and tuberculosis pericarditis. Whether corticosteroids would be beneficial in the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis remains unclear. After reviewing the evidence available to date we found that there was not enough high quality data to support or reject corticosteroid use alongside anti‐pulmonary tuberculosis drugs.

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Terms to know

The hollow, muscular organ that maintains the circulation of the blood.
Redness, swelling, pain, and/or a feeling of heat in an area of the body. This is a protective reaction to injury, disease, or irritation of the tissues.
Myocardial Infarction (Heart Attack)
A heart attack occurs if the flow of oxygen-rich blood to a section of heart muscle suddenly becomes blocked. If blood flow isn't restored quickly, the section of heart muscle begins to die.
Pericardium is a tough double layered membrane which covers the heart. The space between these two layers is filled with serous fluid.
A bag or pouch inside a plant or animal that typically contains a fluid.
Serosa (Serous Membranes)
The outer lining of organs and body cavities of the abdomen and chest, including the stomach.
Serous Fluid
The term serous fluid or serosal fluid is used for various bodily fluids that are typically pale yellow and transparent, and fill the inside of body cavities. Serous fluid originates from serous glands.
A group of cells that act together to carry out a specific function in the body. Examples include muscle tissue, nervous system tissue (including the brain, spinal cord, and nerves), and connective tissue (including ligaments, tendons, bones, and fat). Organs are made up of tissues.

More about Pericarditis

Photo of an adult

Other terms to know: See all 8
Heart, Inflammation, Myocardial Infarction (Heart Attack)

Keep up with systematic reviews on Pericarditis:


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