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Pericardium Disorders

Pericardium disorders are group of disorders that affect the membranous sac that surrounds the heart known as pericardium. There are basically three pericardial disorders, including:

  • Pericarditis (inflammation of the pericardium)
  • Pericardial Effusion (accumulation of fluid in the sac)
  • Cardiac Tamponade (accumulation of fluid in the sac which restricts cardiac functions)

Symptoms of Pericardium Disorders

The following symptoms may be observed in the majority of individuals with pericardium disorders:

  • Chest discomfort and pain
  • Fever (with infection)
  • Shortness of breath and worsening with change in position
  • Dyspnea (difficulty in breathing)
  • Feeling of chest fullness
  • Edema of the abdomen and the legs

Diagnosis of Pericardium Disorders

In handling an individual with pericardium disorders, a thorough history intake and physical examination through a Q and A with Your Doctor may clinch the diagnosis right away. However, confirmatory diagnostics may be used to ascertain the diagnosis: 

Electrocardiography (ECG/EKG) – The procedure that involves placing of an electrode on the body to determine the polarity of body’s heart discharges. Physicians may determine the speed of and rhythm of the heart. Abnormal rhythm may me noted in acute pericarditis.

Echocardiography – Utilizes sound waves to elucidate the image of the heart real time.  The test offers an image to show the size and the shape of the heart. Echocardiography can compute the ejection fraction of the heart, which is the amount of blood pumped out during full contraction. Cardiac tamponade and pericardial effusion may diminish this to mortal levels.

Chest X-Rays – Chest X-Rays uses ionizing radiation to take pictures of the inside of the chest cavity. The test can reveal enlargement of the heart sac and a heart which connotes as an inflammation.

Computed Tomography (CT) – This will involve several x-ray shots to view the heart and lungs in all angles and to expose the defect.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) –Cardiac MRI utilizes magnet, radio waves and computer to diagnose defects of the heart. MRI can give three dimensional imaging, either static or moving. Cardiologist can easily see the behavior of the heart during actual pumping and how the defective walls compromise the blood flow.

Pericardial Fluid Tap – A fine needle is inserted in the base of the pericardium to extract fluid for culture and sensitivity test. This may reveal the pathogenic organism that may cause the infection of the pericardium and the heart.

Other Possible Related Conditions?

Disease of the pericardium may be secondary to a primary organic cause. Immunologic and hypersensitivity complex may lead to an auto immune type of pericarditis. Long standing Tuberculosis may infect the cardiac sac in the same way. People that have had radiation in the past may complain of pericardial problems in the future. System problems like uremia may also inflame the pericardium.

Treatment of Pericardium Disorders

The following treatment options may be available for Pericardium disorders.

Medications – Antibiotics may be prescribed to treat pericarditis infection while diuretics may be given to prevent fluid accumulation of the pericardium in the cases of effusions.

Pericardiocentesis – The percutaneous removal of pericardial fluid from the pericardium to relieve cardiac tamponade and severe effusion. Fluids may be sent for bacteriological analysis in the laboratory to aid in the treatment.

Pericardectomy – The complete surgical removal of the pericardium may be warranted with restrictive pericarditis, wherein the normal function of the heart is already impaired and affected.

Outcome of Pericardium Disorders

The prognosis of individuals who have undergone pericardial surgery shows excellent outcomes. Infection of the pericardium has small recurrence rate, if treated appropriately with the right antibiotics. Individuals devoid of pericardium after a pericardectomy have been observed to live well and normally.

It is important to recognize that medications and medical procedures are associated with benefits and risks that should be discussed with your physician. It is important to recognize that all information contained on this website cannot be considered to be specific medical diagnosis, medical treatment, or medical advice. As always, you should consult with a physician regarding any medical condition. Your Health Access disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.