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October 13, 2015

Evaluation and Treatment of Pericarditis: A Systematic Review

Author Affiliations
  • 1Cardiology Department, Maria Vittoria Hospital and Department of Public Health and Pediatrics, University of Torino, Torino, Italy
  • 2University Division of Cardiology, Department of Medical Sciences, Città della Salute e Della Scienza, University of Torino, Torino, Italy
  • 3Cardiology Unit, University of Vermont College of Medicine and University of Vermont Medical Center, Burlington
JAMA. 2015;314(14):1498-1506. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.12763

Importance  Pericarditis is the most common form of pericardial disease and a relatively common cause of chest pain.

Objective  To summarize published evidence on the causes, diagnosis, therapy, prevention, and prognosis of pericarditis.

Evidence Review  A literature search of BioMedCentral, Google Scholar, MEDLINE, Scopus, and the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews was performed for human studies without language restriction from January 1, 1990, to August 31, 2015. After literature review and selection of meta-analyses, randomized clinical trials, and large observational studies, 30 studies (5 meta-analyses, 10 randomized clinical trials, and 16 cohort studies) with 7569 adult patients were selected for inclusion.

Findings  The etiology of pericarditis may be infectious (eg, viral and bacterial) or noninfectious (eg, systemic inflammatory diseases, cancer, and post–cardiac injury syndromes). Tuberculosis is a major cause of pericarditis in developing countries but accounts for less than 5% of cases in developed countries, where idiopathic, presumed viral causes are responsible for 80% to 90% of cases. The diagnosis is based on clinical criteria including chest pain, a pericardial rub, electrocardiographic changes, and pericardial effusion. Certain features at presentation (temperature >38°C [>100.4°F], subacute course, large effusion or tamponade, and failure of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug [NSAID] treatment) indicate a poorer prognosis and identify patients requiring hospital admission. The most common treatment for idiopathic and viral pericarditis in North America and Europe is NSAID therapy. Adjunctive colchicine can ameliorate the initial episode and is associated with approximately 50% lower recurrence rates. Corticosteroids are a second-line therapy for those who do not respond, are intolerant, or have contraindications to NSAIDs and colchicine. Recurrences may occur in 30% of patients without preventive therapy.

Conclusions and Relevance  Pericarditis is the most common form of pericardial disease worldwide and may recur in as many as one-third of patients who present with idiopathic or viral pericarditis. Appropriate triage and treatment with NSAIDs may reduce readmission rates for pericarditis. Treatment with colchicine can reduce recurrence rates.