Treatment of Pericarditis

The goals of treatment include:

  • Reducing pain and inflammation
  • Treating the underlying cause, if it's known
  • Checking for complications

Types of treatment

First, your health care professional may tell you to rest until you feel better and have no fever.

Most patients are treated with with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin and ibuprofen, and colchicine to reduce pain and inflammation. When used with NSAIDs, colchicine reduces symptoms and decreases the chance of recurrent pericarditis.

When NSAIDs and colchicine don’t lead to a complete resolution, low to moderate doses of corticosteroids, such as prednisone, may be prescribed. Because steroids have been linked with a higher risk of recurrence, they’re typically used only in people who can’t tolerate NSAIDs or colchicine or in those who are pregnant or have conditions such as autoimmune disease.

If a bacterial infection is causing your pericarditis, your health care professional will prescribe an antibiotic or other medication. You may need to stay in the hospital during treatment so you can be monitored for complications.

Symptoms of acute pericarditis can last from one to three weeks. Chronic pericarditis lasts three months or longer.

Other types of treatment

If you have serious complications from pericarditis, you may need treatments that require hospital stays.

Cardiac tamponade is treated with a procedure called pericardiocentesis, in which a needle or tube, called a catheter, is inserted into the chest wall to remove excess fluid in the pericardium. Additional procedures may also be needed to extract the fluid from around the heart. This relieves pressure on the heart.

With constrictive pericarditis, the only cure is surgery known as a pericardiectomy to remove the pericardium. This is only done when symptoms become severe.

Activity restriction

While recovering from pericarditis, you should avoid strenuous physical activity until your symptoms and inflammation have resolved. 

Living with pericarditis

Pericarditis is often mild and goes away on its own. Some cases, if not treated, can lead to chronic pericarditis and serious problems that affect your heart. It can take weeks or months to recover from pericarditis. Full recovery is most likely with rest and ongoing care, which can help reduce your risk of getting it again. 

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