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Acute Pericarditis

Acute Pericarditis

What is pericarditis? — Pericarditis is a condition that causes irritation of the tissue around the heart. This tissue (called the "pericardium") forms a sac that protects the heart and keeps it from rubbing against other nearby organs (figure 1).
Pericarditis is rare in children. Children who have certain medical conditions have a higher risk of getting it. These conditions include:
An infection with a virus
A disease called "lupus" – In this disease, the body's infection-fighting system, called the "immune system," attacks the body's own healthy tissues.
Surgery for a heart condition the child was born with – Fluid sometimes builds up around the heart after surgery. This can cause pericarditis.
What are the symptoms of pericarditis in children? — Symptoms can include:
Chest pain
Feeling weak or tired
Having trouble breathing
Chest pain is the most common symptom of pericarditis. It can be a sharp pain or a dull ache. Your child might have pain in the front of the chest, the shoulder, or the upper back.
If your child has sharp chest pain, it might get worse when he or she takes a deep breath. This pain might get better when your child sits up and leans forward.
Many other conditions can cause chest pain and fever in children. Because pericarditis is rare, a different condition could be causing these symptoms.
Should my child see a doctor or nurse? — Yes. Take your child to the doctor or nurse if he or she:
Has chest pain
Is a baby, and gets sweaty when breastfeeding or bottle feeding
Has trouble breathing
Has swelling in the legs or other parts of the body
Will my child need tests? — Yes. The doctor or nurse will do an exam and ask about your child’s symptoms. He or she can do one or more of these tests:
An electrocardiogram (ECG) – This test measures the electrical activity in your child's heart.
An echocardiogram – This test uses sound waves to create a picture of your child's heart as it beats.
A chest X-ray – This test can show if there is a large amount of fluid around your child's heart.
Blood tests – These measure the levels of certain proteins in the blood. The protein levels are a clue to the health of your child's heart. They can also tell the doctor if your child has a disease that is causing the pericarditis, and if the pericarditis is improving.
How is pericarditis in children treated? — Treatments for pericarditis in children depend on the cause. Treatments might include:
Medicines to reduce pain and inflammation, such as aspirin, ibuprofen (sample brand names: Advil, Motrin), or indomethacin (brand name: Indocin)
Steroid medicines to reduce inflammation (not the same steroids athletes take to build up muscle)
Antibiotics (if an infection is causing the pericarditis)
Draining extra fluid from around the heart – Doctors do this with a thin needle.
If your child needs more treatment, the doctor can do surgery to remove swollen, irritated tissue from around the heart.
If doctors do not already know what is causing your child's pericarditis, they will look for the cause and treat it, if possible. This can help the pericarditis.
All topics are updated as new evidence becomes available and our peer review process is complete.
This topic retrieved from UpToDate on: Mar 30, 2020.
Topic 83439 Version 5.0
Release: 28.2.2 - C28.105
© 2020 UpToDate, Inc. and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.

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