• Definition

    Mediastinitis is swelling and irritation (inflammation) of the area between the lungs (mediastinum). This area contains the heart, large blood vessels, windpipe (trachea), esophagus, thymus gland, lymph nodes, and connective tissues.

    Alternative Names

    Chest infection

    Causes, incidence, and risk factors

    Mediastinitis is usually results from an infection. It may occur suddenly (acute) or may develop slowly and get worse over time (chronic). It most often occurs in patients who recently had an upper endoscopy or chest surgery.

    Patients may have a tear in their esophagus that causes mediastinitis. Causes of the tear include:

    • A procedure such as endoscopy
    • Forceful or constant vomiting
    • Trauma

    Other causes of mediastinitis include:

    • Anthrax inhalation
    • Cancer
    • Histoplasmosis
    • Radiation
    • Sarcoidosis
    • Tuberculosis

    Risk factors include:

    • Disease of the esophagus
    • Problems in the upper gastrointestinal tract
    • Recent chest surgery or endoscopy
    • Weakened immune system