Complications may include:

  • Constrictive pericarditis. Although uncommon, some people with pericarditis, particularly those with long-term inflammation and chronic recurrences, can develop permanent thickening, scarring and contraction of the pericardium.

    In these people, the pericardium loses much of its elasticity and resembles a rigid case that's tight around the heart, which keeps the heart from working properly. This condition is called constrictive pericarditis and often leads to severe swelling of the legs and abdomen, as well as shortness of breath.

  • Cardiac tamponade. When too much fluid collects in the pericardium, a dangerous condition called cardiac tamponade can develop.

    Excess fluid puts pressure on the heart and doesn't allow it to fill properly. That means less blood leaves the heart, which causes a dramatic drop in blood pressure. Cardiac tamponade can be fatal if it isn't promptly treated.

Early diagnosis and treatment of pericarditis usually reduces the risk of the long-term complications.

Apr. 06, 2014