If pericarditis – an inflammation of the pericardium – is caused by chronic infections, such as tuberculosis, the course of the disease is quite different from acute pericarditis. From a long-lasting inflammation the pericardium can thicken, become scarred and shirnk until it is so shrinked that it endangers the normal heartbeat. This disorder is called constrictive pericarditis.
Constrictive pericarditis has a symptom of swelling in the leg and on abdomen because of the accumulation of fluid due to the slow blood circulation. One or all of the symptoms of cardiac decompensation may occur if the person does not approach treatment immediately.
Since tuberculosis is no longer a widespread disease, constrictive pericarditis is less common.
Without surgical treatment, cardiac arrest is practically inevitable.
What to do?
Regardless of the cause, you should contact your doctor immediately if you have symptoms of cardiac arrest. Diagnostic tests – X-rays, electrocardiogram (EKG) and possibly other tests – ultrasound or radioactive isotopes are recommended. Your doctor may also recommend heart catheterization for a detailed assessment of your heart condition. If there are signs of tuberculosis, an analysis of sputum will also be performed.
If you have constrictive pericarditis, there are no helf-help measures you can apply or medications to take to treat the condition. However, it can be cured with an operation – removing of the thickened pericardium from the surface of the heart (pericardectomy). The prospects for complete recovery after this type of surgery are very good.