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Int J Clin Pract. 2010 Sep;64(10):1384-92. doi: 10.1111/j.1742-1241.2009.02178.x. Epub 2010 May 10.

Diagnostic issues in the clinical management of pericarditis.

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1
Cardiology Department, Maria Vittoria Hospital, Torino, Italy. massimo_imazio@yahoo.it

Abstract

AIMS:

To review the current major diagnostic issues on the diagnosis of acute and recurrent pericarditis.

METHODS:

To review the current available evidence, we performed a through search of several evidence-based sources of information, including Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Clinical Evidence, Evidence-based guidelines from National Guidelines Clearinghouse and a comprehensive Medline search with the MeSH terms 'pericarditis', 'etiology' and 'diagnosis'.

RESULTS:

The diagnosis of pericarditis is based on clinical criteria including symptoms, presence of specific physical findings (rubs), electrocardiographical changes and pericardial effusion. Although the aetiology may be varied, most cases are idiopathic or viral, even after an extensive diagnostic evaluation. In such cases, the course is often benign following anti-inflammatory treatment, and management would be not affected by a more precise diagnostic evaluation. A triage of pericarditis can be safely performed on the basis of the clinical and echocardiographical presentation. Specific diagnostic tests are not warranted if no specific aetiologies are suspected on the basis of the epidemiological background, history and presentation. High-risk features associated with specific aetiologies or complications include: fever > 38 degrees C, subacute onset, large pericardial effusion, cardiac tamponade, lack of response to aspirin or a NSAID.

CONCLUSIONS:

A targeted diagnostic evaluation is warranted in acute and recurrent pericarditis, with a specific aetiological search to rule out tuberculous, purulent or neoplastic pericarditis, as well as pericarditis related to a systemic disease, in selected patients according to the epidemiological background, presentation and clinical suspicion.

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