• Definition

    Pericarditis is a condition in which the sac-like covering around the heart (pericardium) becomes inflamed.

    See also: Bacterial pericarditis

    Causes, incidence, and risk factors

    Pericarditis is usually a complication of viral infections, most commonly echovirus or coxsackie virus. Less frequently, it is caused by influenza or HIV infection.

    Infections with bacteria can lead to bacterial pericarditis (also called purulent pericarditis). Some fungal infections can also produce pericarditis.

    In addition, pericarditis can be associated with diseases such as:

    • Autoimmune disorders
    • Cancer (including leukemia)
    • HIV infection and AIDS
    • Hypothyroidism
    • Kidney failure
    • Rheumatic fever
    • Tuberculosis

    Other causes include:

    • Heart attack (see post-MI pericarditis)
    • Injury (including surgery) or trauma to the chest, esophagus, or heart
    • Medications that suppress the immune system
    • Myocarditis
    • Radiation therapy to the chest

    Often the cause of pericarditis remains unknown. In this case, the condition is called idiopathic pericarditis.

    Pericarditis most often affects men aged 20 - 50. It usually follows respiratory infections. In children, it is most commonly caused by adenovirus or coxsackie virus.