Complications of Pericarditis

Complications of Pericarditis

While many people have pericarditis, medical professionals are still researching the most effective ways to diagnose and treat the condition. Given these circumstances, it is crucial for those with the condition to understand its complications. At Myocarditis Foundation, we raise awareness of myocarditis and related diseases to promote better health for affected individuals nationwide. Here, we discuss pericarditis complications to prepare you for any medical challenges.

Pericarditis Symptoms

Pericarditis stems from an inflammation of the pericardium, a thin sac filled with fluid that guards the heart against infection. When the pericardium is inflamed, its two layers rub against each other and cause chest pain.

Most people feel an intense, stabbing pain with pericarditis, but some experience dull pressure in their chest. This discomfort typically begins on the left side of your breast or behind your breastbone, but it may travel to your neck or left shoulder. Individuals often say that the severity of their pain increases if they take a deep breath, cough, or lie down and decreases if they sit upright or lean forward.

Although chest pain is the most widespread indicator of pericarditis, people experience other signs, as well. Depending on what type of pericarditis you have, you may experience the following additional symptoms:

  • Back, neck, or shoulder pain
  • Breathing problems when lying down
  • Dry cough
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Heart palpitations
  • Low-grade fever
  • Swelling in the abdomen or legs
  • Anxiety

Pericarditis Complications

If you neglect to seek treatment for pericarditis, your symptoms can transform into long-term health issues with severe implications. Some of the most common complications of pericarditis include:

Cardiac Tamponade

This condition occurs when too much fluid enters the pericardium, putting pressure on your heart and prohibiting it from filling correctly. In turn, less blood exits your heart, and you experience a significant drop in blood. Usually, individuals with cancers or tuberculosis develop cardiac tamponade. Those affected by this serious complication may have trouble seeing and feel nauseous or weak. If you have pericarditis and notice these symptoms, seek immediate medical assistance.


 Sometimes, bacteria will cause or complicate pericarditis. In these cases, health conditions in other parts of the body can prompt an infection in the heart. Bacterial infection can also trigger an abscess, or an uncomfortable build-up of pus, in the pericardium or heart.

Pericardial Effusion

Pericardial effusion happens when fluid accumulates in the space between the pericardium. As with cardiac tamponade, this condition puts pressure on the heart and keeps it from pumping correctly. Pericardial effusion can develop quickly or over time and usually comes with chest pain, breathing troubles, nausea, and faintness. If left untreated, pericardial effusion can lead to shock or other serious complications.


You may develop myopericarditis if you have an inflamed myocardium or cardiac tissue damage from a heart attack. This life-threatening complication, which is also referred to as post-myocardial infarction and post-heart attach pericarditis, can lead to chronic heart failure and even death.

Learn More about Pericarditis from Myocarditis Foundation

Recognizing complications is just one part of understanding pericarditis, but you can learn more about the diagnosis with Myocarditis Foundation. We provide numerous services to individuals impacted by myocarditis and related pericardial conditions like pericarditis. We also help healthcare providers across the nation fund research into these conditions. Contact us to learn more about pericarditis complications, or make a donation today.

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