Causes of pericarditis

Most often, the cause of pericarditis is not known or is thought to be a viral infection.

Other causes can include:

  • Infection from a virus or bacteria, such as AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) or tuberculosis.
  • Cancer or treatment for cancer.
  • Heart injury, such as a heart attack or chest injury.
  • Connective tissue diseases, such as lupus.
  • Kidney failure.
  • A thyroid disorder.

Pericarditis may develop as a side effect of certain drugs, such as procainamide, isoniazid, and hydralazine, which are medicines that can cause drug-induced lupus. In rare cases, phenytoin (such as Dilantin), cromolyn (such as Crolom), penicillin, and chemotherapy drugs can cause pericarditis.

Both viral and bacterial infections may cause pericarditis. Some type of virus is probably responsible for many cases of unknown (idiopathic) pericarditis. Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection known to affect the pericardium. Bacteria are a common cause of pericarditis in children.

Chest injury or trauma may also result in pericarditis. Pericardial inflammation may occur 3 to 6 weeks after a heart attack or heart surgery. Knife or gun wounds can damage the pericardium and lead to pericarditis. Bruising or injury from severe impact, such as a car accident, also can cause pericardial inflammation.

Last Updated: April 20, 2009

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