There is a small amount of fluid
between the inner and outer layers of the pericardium. Often, when the pericardium
becomes inflamed, the amount of fluid between these layers increases. This is called a
pericardial effusion. If the amount
of fluid increases quickly, the effusion can keep the heart from working properly. This
complication of pericarditis is called cardiac tamponade and is a serious and life-threatening emergency. A thin
needle or tube (catheter) is put into the chest to remove the fluid in the
pericardium and relieve pressure on the heart.
Chronic constrictive pericarditis occurs
when scar-like tissue forms throughout the pericardium. It’s a rare disease that can
develop over time in people with pericarditis. The scar tissue causes pericardial sac to
stiffen and not move properly. In time, the scar tissue squeezes the heart and keeps it
from working well. This may cause shortness of breath, pain, and swelling. The only way
to treat this is to remove the pericardium with a special type of heart surgery called a
pericardial window procedure.