• Pericarditis—Child


    Pericarditis is an inflammation of the sac around the heart. In some cases, the inflammation may cause fluid to build up in the sac and make it difficult for the heart to move.
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


    The exact cause of pericarditis is often unknown. Infections, injuries or chronic disease may be involved in some cases.

    Risk Factors

    Factors that increase the risk for pericarditis include:
    • Weakened immune system that is not able to fight off infections and other diseases
    • Surgery to repair heart defects or heart disease
    • Infection from virus, bacteria, parasite, or fungus
    • Chest trauma or injury
    • Autoimmune disorders, like systemic lupus erythematosus


    Chest pain is a common symptom. It may start over the left side or center of the chest and spread to the neck and left shoulder. The pain is usually a sharp, stabbing pain that may be worse with deep breathing or lying down.
    Other symptoms may include:
    • Shortness of breath
    • Coughing
    • Fever and chills
    • Pain when swallowing
    • Weakness and fatigue
    • Irritability
    • Loss of appetite
    • Irregular heartbeat


    You will be asked about your child’s symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. The doctor will listen for a grating or rubbing sound in your child’s heart. If the condition is severe, there may also be a crackle sound in your child’s lungs.
    Images may be taken to evaluate the heart and surrounding tissue. This can be done with:
    Your child's heart activity may be tested. This can be done with an electrocardiogram (EKG).
    Your child's bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with:
    • Blood tests
    • Pericardiocentesis


    The illness can range from mild to life-threatening. Acute inflammatory pericarditis usually improves with treatment within a few weeks or months. Pericarditis caused by chronic inflammatory diseases, like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis , may last longer or occur again.
    Treatment options include:


    The doctor may recommend medication to:
    • Decrease inflammation
    • Manage pain—may be over-the-counter or prescription medication depending on the degree of pain
    Antibiotics may be given if the pericarditis is associated with a bacterial infection.


    For severe pericarditis, your child may need:
    • Pericardiocentesis—fluid around the heart is removed with a needle
    • Pericadiectomy—the sac around the heart is removed—rarely done


    There are no current guidelines to prevent pericarditis.


    American Heart Association http://www.heart.org

    National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov


    Canadian Cardiovascular Society http://www.ccs.ca

    Canadian Family Physician http://www.cfp.ca


    Acute pericarditis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated November 28, 2013. Accessed December 3, 2013.

    Pediatric pericarditis. Cincinnati Children's website. Available at: http://www.cincinnatichildrens.org/health/info/heart/diagnose/peri.htm. Updated November 2013. Accessed December 3, 2013.

    Pericarditis. Seattle Children's Hospital website. Available at http://www.seattlechildrens.org/medical-conditions/heart-blood-conditions/pericarditis-symptoms/. Accessed December 3, 2013.

    Revision Information

  • LiveWell personal health survey

    How healthy are you really? Find out – free.Learn more

    It's time to stop guessing. If you want to make some changes but just aren't sure how, the free personal health survey from LiveWell is a great place to start.

  • HeartSHAPE Spotlight

    At risk for a heart attack? Learn more

    Fight heart disease and prevent heart attacks. HeartSHAPE® is a painless, non-invasive test that checks pictures of your heart for early-stage coronary disease.

  • Calories and Energy Needs

    Calorie NeedsLearn more

    How many calories do you need to eat each day to maintain your weight and fuel your physical activity? Enter a few of your stats into this calculator to find out.

  • Ideal Body Weight

    Ideal Body WeightLearn more

    Using body mass index as a reference, this calculator determines your ideal body weight range. All you need to do is enter your height.

  • Body Mass Index

    Body Mass IndexLearn more

    This tool considers your height and weight to assess your weight status.

  • Can we help answer your questions?

    Wellmont Nurse Connection is your resource for valuable health information any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Speak to a Nurse any time, day or night, at (423) 723-6877 or toll-free at 1-877-230-NURSE.