Possible Complications of Pericarditis

In this article, we take a look at 2 possible complications of Pericarditis

Constrictive Pericarditis

Constrictive pericarditis is a severe form of chronic pericarditis in which the inflamed layers of the pericardium stiffen, develop scar tissue, thicken and stick together. The thick, rigid pericardium constricts the heart’s normal movement so that it cannot expand normally as it fills with blood.

As a result, the heart chambers don’t fill up with enough blood. The blood then backs up behind the heart, causing symptoms of heart failure including shortness of breath, swelling of the legs and feet, water retention and disturbances in the heart’s normal rhythm. These symptoms should improve when the constrictive pericarditis is treated.

Constrictive pericarditis can often be treated with a diuretic, such as furosemide, to treat the fluid retention. If you develop an arrhythmia (an irregular heartbeat), you may need to take medication to treat the irregular heartbeat for as long as the constrictive pericarditis lasts or until your heartbeat returns to normal. When none of these treatments are effective, pericardiectomy may be needed to surgically remove the stiffened pericardium.

Constrictive pericarditis and cardiac tamponade both restrict the filling of the cardiac chambers, thereby increasing both systemic and pulmonary filling pressures.

In rare cases, the effusion may lead to constriction with regional tamponade of one or more cardiac chambers. Almost any form of chronic pericardial effusion could be a case of effusive-constrictive pericarditis, although the number of cases is relatively low.

Mortality Rates With Constrictive Pericarditis

The mortality rate of this disease is directly related to its cause of origin, so the mortality rate varies. This disease can affect people of all ages, although some prognoses are worse than others.

Many patients do not present symptoms until the advanced stages of the disease. In more severe cases, impaired mental status may be evident as a result of decreased cardiac function activity.


Pericardial Effusion


When an excess of fluid builds up in the space between the pericardium, it can cause a condition known as pericardial effusion. Rapid fluid accumulation in the pericardium can cause cardiac tamponade, a severe compression of the heart that impairs its ability to function. Cardiac tamponade resulting from a pericardial effusion can be life-threatening and is a medical emergency requiring immediate drainage of the fluid with a catheter.


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