Complications of pericarditis

Pericarditis may lead to other conditions. Often complications develop when a person has repeated episodes of pericarditis or when it lasts for a long time. Some of the common problems that are known to result from pericarditis include:

  • Constrictive pericarditis. Repeated or prolonged episodes of pericarditis can lead to constrictive pericarditis, which is a stiffening and thickening of the membrane sac around the heart (pericardium). Constrictive pericarditis restricts the heart's ability to pump effectively.
  • Pericardial effusion. Pericardial effusion is a buildup of fluid in the space between the heart and the sac around the heart (pericardium). Inflammation of the pericardium can lead to fluid buildup in the space around the heart and can cause chest pain and, in rare cases, increased pressure on the heart (cardiac tamponade).
  • Cardiac tamponade. Too much fluid between the heart and pericardium can cause cardiac tamponade, a condition that results when this fluid collects too quickly and puts weight and pressure on the heart. The heart cannot expand properly, so it does not fill with normal amounts of blood. The heart pumps out less blood, which may lead to heart failure.
  • Sudden heart failure. Heart failure is a condition in which the lower chambers of the heart (ventricles) are not able to pump blood effectively.

Last Updated: April 20, 2009

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