What is it?

The pericardium is the flexible two-layered sac that envelops the heart. Chronic pericarditis is an inflammation of the pericardium that develops gradually. It results in fluid accumulation in the pericardial space. There are many causes for pericarditis, and may include rheumatic conditions such as- rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus) and scleroderma. In fact, The most common cardiac involvement in RA is pericarditis. Myopericarditis is an inflammation of the pericardium and the underlying myocardium (the heart muscle) resulting in damage to the heart cells muscles.

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Signs & symptoms

Symptoms of chronic pericarditis may include shortness of breath, coughing, fatigue. Other common symptoms are accumulation of fluid in the abdomen and legs. Sometimes, patients may be asymptomatic as well.


Diagnosis of rheumatoid pericarditis is based upon findings from medical history and physical examination. It can also be done with an echocardiography and sometimes cardiac catheterization or imaging using CT or MRI. Chest x-ray may detect calcium deposits in the pericardium. Blood tests including antibodies may be done to evaluate the cause for pericarditis- sometimes pericarditis may precede the diagnosis of the rheumatic disease.


Treatment of pericarditis is to treat the underlying rheumatic disease. Sometimes a removal of the pericardial fluid or the pericardium is done. If there are symptoms, a needle or surgical drainage may be performed.

☝️ This is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult with your physician before making any medical decision.

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