Overview

Dressler syndrome is a type of inflammation of the sac surrounding the heart (pericarditis). Dressler syndrome is believed to be an immune system response after damage to heart tissue or to the sac surrounding the heart (pericardium). Such damage may occur from events such as a heart attack, surgery or traumatic injury. Symptoms include chest pain, which may be similar to chest pain experienced during a heart attack.

Dressler syndrome may also be called post-myocardial infarction syndrome, post-traumatic pericarditis, post-cardiac injury syndrome and post-pericardiotomy syndrome.

Symptoms

Symptoms are likely to appear weeks to months after a heart attack, surgery or injury to the chest. Symptoms might include:

  • Chest pain
  • Fever

When to see a doctor

Seek emergency care for sudden or persistent chest pain, which may signal a heart attack or other serious disorder.

Causes

Experts think Dressler syndrome is caused by the immune system's response to heart damage. Your body reacts to the injured tissue by sending immune cells and proteins (antibodies) to clean up and repair the affected area. Sometimes this response causes excessive inflammation in the pericardium.

Dressler syndrome may occur after certain heart surgeries or procedures.

Complications

The immune system reaction that causes Dressler syndrome might also lead to fluid buildup in the tissues surrounding your lungs (pleural effusion).

Rarely, Dressler syndrome can cause more-serious complications, including:

  • Cardiac tamponade. Inflammation of the pericardium can cause fluids to accumulate in the sac (pericardial effusion). The fluid can put pressure on the heart, forcing it to work harder and reducing its ability to pump blood efficiently.
  • Constrictive pericarditis. Recurring or chronic inflammation can cause the pericardium to become thick or scarred. The scarring can reduce the heart's ability to pump blood efficiently.

Prevention

Some preliminary studies suggest that taking the anti-inflammatory medication colchicine before heart surgery might help prevent Dressler syndrome.

Jan. 22, 2021
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