The pericardium is a thin sac that surrounds the heart. Its function is to support and protect the heart. Under normal circumstances, this sac contains only a very small amount of fluid.
Pericarditis is inflammation of this sac. Pericardial effusion is a large increase in the amount of fluid within the sac. Pericardial effusion compresses the heart and decreases its pumping ability. Pericardial effusion often develops after pericarditis.
Causes of pericardial disease include heart failure, tumors, trauma to the heart or pericardial sac, bacterial toxins or infection, viral infections, and diseases that interfere with normal blood clotting.
Important Points in Treatment
1. Various laboratory tests, radiographs (x-rays), electrocardiographs (ECG), and such specialized techniques as angiography and echocardiography are often necessary to diagnose and monitor the response to treatment of pericardial disease. Pericardial disease is always a serious problem, and successful treatment is not always possible.