Constrictive pericarditis (patient information)
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Constrictive pericarditis On the Web
Risk calculators and risk factors for Constrictive pericarditis
Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. 
Constrictive pericarditis is the chronic inflammation of the pericardium, the sac-like covering of the heart that contains a thin layer of fluid. Constrictive pericarditis is when the pericardial sac becomes chronically inflamed (with thickening, scarring, and muscle tightening) and loses its elasticity. This inflammation makes it difficult for the heart to stretch properly when it beats, resulting in the heart chambers not filling up with enough blood and the blood then accumulates behind the heart, causing heart swelling and other symptoms of heart failure.
What are the symptoms of constrictive pericarditis?
Symptoms of constrictive pericarditis include:
- Dyspnea - difficulty breathing that slowly develops and worsens
- Edema - long term swelling of the legs and ankles due to exertion
- Swollen abdomen
What causes constrictive pericarditis?
Constrictive pericarditis can occur after any major pericardial disease that cause inflammation around the heart, such as:
- Heart surgery (post-cardiac surgery)
- Radiation therapy to the chest area (post-radiation therapy, specifically after Hodgkin disease or breast cancer)
- Tuberculosis (postinfectious)
Constrictive pericarditis can also develop with no apparent cause.
Who is at highest risk?
Patients who have had heart surgery or any pericardial disease are at risk. This condition is most common among adults and is exceedingly rare in children.
Constrictive pericarditis is very difficult to diagnose because the signs and symptoms are similar to cardiomyopathy and cardiac tamponade. A full physical exam would have to be done by your doctor, along with many tests to be properly diagnosed.
When to seek urgent medical care?
Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of constrictive pericarditis.
Treatment options vary upon the severity of the condition. Heart function must be improved and the cause of the constrictive pericarditis must be identified and treated accordingly.
Diseases with similar symptoms
Where to find medical care for constrictive pericarditis?
Directions to Hospitals Treating Constrictive Pericarditis
In some cases constrictive pericarditis is not preventable, but conditions that can lead to this condition should be treated accordingly.
What to expect (Outlook/Prognosis)?
If left untreated, constrictive pericarditis may become life threatening. Surgery is reserved for patients who have severe symptoms due to the high complication rate.