Pericarditis is caused by inflammation or infection of the pericardium, the thin sac (membrane) that surrounds the heart. There is a small amount of fluid between the inner and outer layers of the pericardium. Often, when the pericardium becomes inflamed, the amount of fluid between its two layers increases, causing a pericardial effusion. If the amount of fluid increases quickly, the effusion caused can impair the ability of the heart to function properly. This condition is called pericardial tamponade.
In children, pericarditis is most likely to occur following surgery to repair congenital (present at birth) heart defects or acquired heart disease. However, other causes may include the following:
The following are the most common symptoms of pericarditis. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
Children may not be able to describe that they have "chest pain" or be able to explain exactly how they feel. Sometimes, nonspecific symptoms such as irritability, loss of appetite, or fatigue will be all that the child is able to express. The symptoms of pericarditis may resemble other medical conditions or heart problems. Always consult your child's health care provider for a diagnosis.
Your child's health care provider may have heard an abnormal heart sound called a rub, which occurs when there is irritation of the pericardial membranes. In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic testing for pericarditis may include:
Specific treatment for pericarditis will be determined by your child's health care provider based on:
The goal of treatment for pericarditis is to determine and eliminate the cause of the disease. Treatment may include:
Consult your child's health care provider for more information.
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