Pericarditis is an inflammation of the 'pericardium' or the  sac that surrounds the heart.

Nowadays it is most commonly found after a viral infection (though other illnesses are associated with it). This attacks the pericardial sac causing inflammation and chest pain. Classically this is a slightly sharp pain worse when taking a deep breath and relieved by sitting forward.

Characteristic 'saddle shaped' changes on the ECG are often seen to confirm the diagnosis. An echocardiogram is often done to look for any build up of fluid between the pericardial layers. Sometimes the inflammation causes too much fluid to accumulate and in rare circumstances this can compress the heart causing breathlessness and has to be drained off.

Pericarditis is usually a self limiting condition which improves on its own and does not usually recur (but as with all symptoms if you have chest pain and are unwell you should seek medical help). The treatment is anti-inflammatory tablets for the pain.

Please note:

Every effort has been made to ensure that the information on this website is up-to-date and accurate. However, it is intended to serve as a guide only. Symptoms may vary and if you have any medical concerns you should always consult a healthcare professional.