The vast majority of cases of pericarditis are self-limiting, with symptoms going away in the course of several days. However, further treatment may be necessary depending on the cause of pericarditis. Rarely, severe cases of pericarditis may be life-threatening.
Most people recover in days to weeks if the disorder is treated promptly. However, it can come back. Treatments may include:
Rest and Medications
You may be asked to stay in bed until you are better. At the same time, you may be prescribed one or more of a number of medications to reduce inflammation, pain and swelling including:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or naproxen
- Colchicine - another anti-inflammatory medication
- Corticosteroids such as prednisone
Less common Medications
- Antibiotics if caused by bacterial infection
- Antifungal medication if caused by fungal infection
- Diuretics to remove excess fluid from the pericardial sac
A serious complication called cardiac tamponade -- when dangerous levels of fluid build up around the heart -- may require a medical procedure called pericardiocentesis. In this procedure, your doctor uses a sterile needle or catheter to drain the excess fluid from the pericardial sac.
This is a severe form of chronic pericarditis where inflamed layers of the pericardium stiffen, develop scar tissue, thicken and stick together. As a result, the heart's normal movement is constricted so that it cannot expand normally while filling with blood. If the blood backs up behind the heart, heart failure can result.
While this condition can often be treated with diuretic drugs, sometimes it requires surgery known as a pericardiectomy or pericardial stripping, where the stiffened pericardium is removed.