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Synopsis

Pericarditis is an inflammation of the pericardium (the fibrous sac surrounding the heart). A characteristic chest pain is often present.

The causes of pericarditis are varied, including viral infections of the pericardium, idiopathic causes, uremic pericarditis, bacterial infections of the pericardium (e.g., Mycobacterium tuberculosis), post-infarct pericarditis (pericarditis due to heart attack; within 24-hours or if weeks-months after: Dressler's syndrome's).

Pericarditis can be classified according to the composition of the inflammatory exudate or in other words the composition of the fluid that accumulates around the heart.

Types include:

    serous
    purulent
    fibrinous
    caseous
    hemorrhagic
    Post infarction

Depending on the time of presentation and duration, pericarditis is divided into "acute" and "chronic" forms. Acute pericarditis is more common than chronic pericarditis, and can occur as a complication of infections, immunologic conditions, or even as a result of a heart attack (myocardial infarction). Chronic pericarditis however is less common, a form of which is constrictive pericarditis. The following is the clinical classification of acute vs. chronic:

    Clinically: Acute (<6 weeks), Subacute (6 weeks to 6 months) and Chronic (>6 months)

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