Constrictive pericarditis

Constrictive pericarditis is stiffening and thickening of the membrane sac around the heart (pericardium). Repeated or prolonged episodes of inflammation of the pericardium (pericarditis) can lead to constrictive pericarditis, which restricts the heart's ability to pump effectively.

The most common causes of constrictive pericarditis include radiation therapy, autoimmune diseases (such as lupus), kidney failure, and tuberculosis.

If the pericardium becomes thick and stiff and interferes with the heart's ability to pump blood, it can be removed in a procedure called pericardiectomy. Although the pericardium surrounds and cushions the heart, the heart can function without it, if necessary.

Last Updated: April 20, 2009

Author: Robin Parks, MS

Medical Review: Caroline S. Rhoads, MD - Internal Medicine & John A. McPherson, MD, FACC, FSCAI - Cardiology

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