Your doctor will start with an evaluation of your symptoms: the sharp pain in the chest, back of the shoulders and difficulty breathing are two major clues that you may have pericarditis rather than a heart attack. Your doctor also will ask you about your medical history, such as whether you have had a recent viral illness.
He or she should already know about any previous heart surgery or current diseases – such as lupus or kidney failure – that may increase your risk of pericarditis.
Cardiac MRI and CT scan
- Cardiac MRI and CT scan: Shows excess fluid in the pericardium or signs of pericardial inflammation using a special imaging agent called gadolinium. These tests may also show a thickened pericardium or compression of the heart from the thickened pericardium.
- Cardiac catheterization: Provides hemodynamic information about the filling pressures within the heart in order to confirm a diagnosis of constrictive pericarditis.
- Laboratory (blood) tests: Can be used to make sure you are not having a heart attack, to evaluate the heart’s function, test the fluid in the pericardium and determine the underlying cause of the pericarditis. Often, the sedimentation rate (ESR) or C reactive protein levels (markers of inflammation) are elevated. Other laboratory tests may include evaluation for autoimmune diseases.