DESCRIPTIONAcute pericarditis is inflammation of the pericardium (the thin membrane around the heart). This is not contagious or cancerous unless it is caused by the spread of cancer elsewhere. The pericardium, blood vessels, and sensory nerves are involved.
Appropriate health care includes:
Physician's monitoring of general condition and medications.
Surgery (sometimes) to remove fluid through a needle if fluid collects in the pericardium.
Self-care after diagnosis.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMSDull or sharp pain in the front of the chest, radiating to the neck and shoulder. The pain worsens with movement and eases when the child is sitting up or leaning forward.
Fever and chills.
The most important signs are apparent only with medical examination: friction rub heard through a stethoscope, elevated white blood cell count, rapid sedimentation rate (See Glossary), and abnormal EKG (See Glossary).
Rheumatic fever and other diseases of connective tissue, such as lupus erythematosus.
Chronic kidney failure.
Complication of a heart attack.
Complication following heart surgery.
Complication of a chest injury, including use of a cardiac catheter.
Spread of cancer to the pericardium.
Sometimes unknown. The most common known causes are:
RISK FACTORSRecent illness, such as a heart attack, viral illness, or rheumatic fever.
Medical history of tuberculosis.
PREVENTING COMPLICATIONS OR RECURRENCENo specific preventive measures except medical treatment for your child for the disorders that cause pericarditis.
Your own observation of symptoms; medical history and physical exam by a doctor; EKG; chest X-ray.
Thoracentesis (fluid removal with a needle). This procedure may be diagnostic or therapeutic.
POSSIBLE COMPLICATIONSFluid in the pericardium may cause pressure on your child's heart. This can be fatal unless fluid is removed quickly.
Usually curable in 6 months unless the pericarditis is caused by cancer. After cure, there should be no functional disability in your child.
HOME CAREApply a heating pad or warm compresses to the child's chest to relieve pain.
MEDICATIONYour doctor may prescribe steroid drugs if your child's pericarditis is a complication of a heart attack, connective-tissue disease, or a metabolic disorder. No medication is needed if the pericarditis is caused by a virus.
Use non-prescription drugs, such as acetaminophen, for minor pain.
Your child should rest in bed until the fever and pain subside. The child may read or watch TV and may resume normal activities gradually.
DIET & FLUIDS
No special diet.
OK TO GO TO SCHOOL?When signs of infection have decreased, appetite returns, and alertness, strength, and feeling of well-being will allow.
CALL YOUR DOCTOR IF
Your child has symptoms of pericarditis.
The following occurs during treatment:
-- Fever above 102F (38.9C).
-- Shortness of breath and rapid heartbeat.
-- Cough with blood.
-- Unexplained weight loss.
-- Pain not controlled by acetaminophen.
New, unexplained symptoms develop. Steroids used in treatment may produce side effects, especially restlessness.