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Pericarditis - after heart attack

  • Definition

    Pericarditis is inflammation and swelling of the covering of the heart (pericardium). The condition can occur in the days or weeks following a heart attack.

    See also: Bacterial pericarditis


    Alternative Names

    Dressler syndrome; Post-MI pericarditis; Post-cardiac injury syndrome; Postcardiotomy pericarditis


    Causes, incidence, and risk factors

    Two types of pericarditis can occur after a heart attack.

    The first type of pericarditis most often occurs within 2 to 5 days after a heart attack. When the body tries to clean up the diseased heart tissue, swelling and inflammation occur.

    The second type of pericarditis is also called Dressler's syndrome (or post-cardiac injury syndrome or postcardiotomy pericarditis). It occurs several weeks or months after a heart attack, heart surgery, or other trauma to the heart. Dressler's syndrome is believed to be caused by the immune system attacking the area.

    Pain occurs when the pericardium becomes inflamed (swollen) and rubs on the heart.

    You have a higher risk of pericarditis if you have had a previous heart attack, open heart surgery, or chest trauma, or if your heat attack affected the thickness of your heart muscle.