Pericarditis in children

Pericarditis in children

Pericarditis in children is a condition caused by inflammation of the membrane around the heart (pericardium) against a background of viral or bacterial infection. Consequently, the sac that clogs the heart is invaded by the fluid and determined to place a major pressure on the heart, affecting its normal activity.


The pericardium is made of fine tissue, smooth on the inside and rough on the outside. The layers of the sac that clothe the heart begin to reach after an inflammation and suffer a friction, felt by the sick child in the form of a severe chest pain. When the excess fluid accumulates between the pericardium and the heart, pressure appears that obstructs the heart to fill properly.

How does pericarditis appear in children?

Causes that cause pericarditis in children are most often respiratory infections caused by a virus. There are also less common situations in which the disease occurs due to contact with bacteria or other conditions such as tuberculosis, diseases of the immune system (lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis), kidney failure or different types of cancer.

Pericarditis may also result from cardiac surgery or from widespread inflammation of the heart muscle (myopericarditis or myocarditis).

What symptoms does pericarditis have in children?

Children who suffer from pericarditis have symptoms such as chest pain and fever. The sensation of discomfort in the chest is felt behind the chest bone (sternum) and takes the form of sharp joints.

The pain is usually aggravated in the sleeping position, which is why its intensity may decrease when the child rises or sits forward. If the volume of fluid around the heart increases considerably, the baby may experience respiratory difficulties, dizziness or fainting.

All these symptoms can be accompanied by irritability, fatigue, lack of appetite and irregular heartbeat. Pericarditis is diagnosed by blood tests, chest x-ray and echocardiography.

How is pericarditis treated in children?

Pericarditis is a medical emergency, potentially fatal if it does not intervene in a timely manner. A child suspected of this condition will be evaluated as soon as possible, as drainage of the fluid may be necessary using a special small tube.

If there is no large accumulation of fluid and the cause of the disease is known, anti-inflammatory drugs and analgesics are the usual form of treatment.