Pericarditis is an important diagnosis to consider, along with various other differential diagnoses, in a patient who presents with chest pain.
This article describes in detail the common features, management and complications of pericarditis in the general practice setting.
Characteristic clinical findings in pericarditis include pleuritic chest pain and pericardial friction rub on auscultation of the left lower sternal border. Electrocardiography may reveal diffuse PR-segment depressions and diffuse ST-segment elevations with upward concavity. The most common aetiologies of pericarditis are idiopathic and viral, and the most common treatment for these are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and colchicine. The complications of pericarditis include pericardial effusion, tamponade and myopericarditis. The presence of effusion, constriction or tamponade can be confirmed on echocardiography. Tamponade is potentially life-threatening and is diagnosed by the clinical findings of decreased blood pressure, elevated jugular venous pressure, muffled heart sounds on auscultation and pulsus paradoxus.