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Pericarditis - constrictive
Alternative namesConstrictive pericarditis
DefinitionConstrictive pericarditis is a disorder caused by inflammation of the pericardium (the sac-like covering of the heart) with subsequent thickening, scarring, and contracture of the pericardium.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Constrictive pericarditis is a chronic form of pericarditis in which the pericardium is rigid, thickened, scarred, and less elastic than normal. The pericardium cannot stretch as the heart beats, which prevents the chambers of the heart from filling.
A direct consequence is a reduced cardiac output (the amount of blood pumped by the heart). The blood backs up behind the heart, resulting in symptoms of heart failure.
The inflamed pericardium may cause pain when it rubs against the heart.
The most common causes of constrictive pericarditis are conditions that induce chronic inflammation of the pericardium: tuberculosis , radiation therapy to the chest, and cardiac surgery.
Less frequently, constrictive pericarditis results from mesothelioma (a tumor) of the pericardium or from incomplete drainage of abnomal fluid accumulating in the pericardial sac, which can occur in purulent pericarditis or in post-surgery hemopericardium (bleeding within the pericardial sac). Constrictive pericarditis may also develop without apparent cause.
Symptoms of acute (but not chronic) pericarditis also include:
Signs and tests
Constrictive pericarditis is notoriously difficult to diagnose and must be distinguished from restrictive cardiomyopathy and cardiac tamponade .
The examination of the neck veins may show that the jugular venous pressure is elevated. Neck veins may be prominent and may not decrease when inhaling (related to increased pressure in the veins). This is called Kussmaul's sign and is caused by lack of transmission of intrathoracic respiratory changes to the pericardial space and heart chambers.
Heart sounds may be weak or distant. There may be signs of hepatic (liver) congestion, such as enlargement of the liver and fluid in the abdomen ( ascites ). The spleen may be examined by touch. Pericardial thickening, scarring, or calcification (mineral deposits) can be verified by the results of the following tests:
Both echo-Dopppler and cardiac catheterization may clearly show that during inhalation, the venous blood flow into the right atrium does not increase as it would normally.
The goal of treatment is to improve heart function. The cause must be identified and treated. This may include antibiotics, anti-tuberculosis medications, or other treatments.
Constrictive pericarditis may be life-threatening if untreated. The condition's surgical treatment (pericardiectomy), on the other hand, has a relatively high complication rate and is usually reserved for severely symptomatic cases.
For patients with radiation-induced constrictive pericarditis the long-term results of pericardiectomy are not as helpful as was once expected.
Calling your health care providerCall your health care provider if symptoms indicate constrictive pericarditis may be present.
PreventionConstrictive pericarditis in some cases is not preventable, but if a condition of the pericardium that can lead to constrictive pericarditis exists, it should be adequately treated and the patient should undergo periodic check-ups.
Update Date: 5/22/2002Elena Sgarbossa, M.D., Department of Cardiology, Rush-Presbyterian St. Luke's Medical Ctr., Chicago, IL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT