Dr. Alrich L. Gray // Central Montana Heart & Vascular Institute


Pericarditis is the swelling and inflammation of the tissue that surrounds your heart. In severe cases of pericarditis, too much swelling reduces the heart’s ability to expand and pump blood around the body effectively. Some symptoms include:

  • Chest pain, especially pain that gets worse when you cough, lie down or take a deep breath, and gets better when you sit up and lean forward
  • Abdominal or leg swelling
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Low-grade fever
  • Pounding or racing heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath when lying down

If your case of pericarditis is not severe, your doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce the amount of swelling around the heart. In more severe cases, pericarditis may lead to pericardial effusion, which is the buildup of fluid around the heart. In this case, the excess fluid surrounding the heart may have to be drained using a long, thin tube called a catheter.