Dressler syndrome is inflammation of the sac surrounding the heart (pericarditis). It's believed to occur as the result of the immune system responding to damage to heart tissue or damage to the sac around the heart (pericardium). The damage can result from a heart attack, surgery or traumatic injury. Symptoms include chest pain, which can feel like chest pain from 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 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.


Experts think Dressler syndrome is caused by the immune system's response to heart damage. The 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 inflammation in the pericardium.

Dressler syndrome may occur after certain heart surgeries or procedures.


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

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

  • Cardiac tamponade. Inflammation of the pericardium can cause fluid to build up 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.


Some studies suggest that taking the anti-inflammatory medication colchicine (Colcrys, Gloperba, Mitgare) before heart surgery might help prevent Dressler syndrome.