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Pericarditis - after heart attack

Alternative Names:

Dressler syndrome; Post-MI pericarditis; Post-cardiac injury syndrome; Postcardiotomy pericarditis


Symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Chest pain from the swollen pericardium rubbing on the heart. The pain may be sharp, tight or crushing and may move to the neck, shoulder, or abdomen. The pain may also be worse when you breathe and go away when you lean forward, stand, or sit up.
  • Trouble breathing
  • Dry cough
  • Fast heart rate (tachycardia)
  • Fatigue
  • Fever (more common with the second type of pericarditis)
  • Malaise (general ill feeling)
  • Splinting of ribs (bending over or holding the chest) with deep breathing
Exams and Tests:

The health care provider will listen to your heart and lungs with a stethoscope. There may be a rubbing sound (called a pericardial friction rub, not to be confused with a heart murmur). Heart sounds in general may be weak or sound far away.

A buildup of fluid in the covering of the heart or space around the lungs (pericardial effusion) is not common after a heart attack. But, it often does occur in some patients with Dressler's syndrome.

Tests may include:

Outlook (Prognosis):

The condition may come back, even in people who get treatment. Untreated pericarditis can be life threatening in some cases.

Possible Complications:
When to Contact a Medical Professional:

Call your health care provider if:

  • You develop symptoms of pericarditis after a heart attack
  • You have been diagnosed with pericarditis and symptoms continue or come back despite treatment

Imazio M, Brucato A, Forno D, Ferro S, Belli R, Trinchero R, Adler Y. Efficacy and safety of colchicine for pericarditis prevention. Systematic review and meta-analysis. Heart. 2012 Jul;98(14):1078-82. Epub 2012 Mar 22. PMID: 22442198. Available at:

LeWinter MM, Hopkins WE. Pericardial diseases. In: Mann DL, Zipes DP, Libby P, et al. eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 71.

Review Date: 8/12/2014
Reviewed By: Michael A. Chen, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington Medical School, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. Copyright 2002 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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