Constrictive Pericarditis

Constrictive pericarditis is a condition in which the pericardium — a protective sac around the heart — loses its elasticity and becomes very rigid, causing constriction of the heart’s movements. Most cases occur in men between the ages of 20 and 50, although the condition can also occur in women. Constrictive pericarditis often develops suddenly. Viral infection involving the pericardium is a leading cause of the disease. Inflammation of the pericardium arising after heart surgery or a heart attack can also cause constrictive pericarditis.

Symptoms of Constrictive Pericarditis
Constrictive pericarditis has a number of symptoms including: 

  • Severe swelling of the legs and abdomen 
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Chest pain when breathing 
  • Fatigue 
  • Difficulty breathing when lying down 
  • Anxiety


Treatment of Constrictive Pericarditis
The condition can be detected after combining the patient’s history with a physical examination and diagnosis is frequently established by looking at the heart with ultrasound (echocardiography). In some cases, additional imaging of the heart with either computed tomography (CT) or cardiac magnetic resonance (CMR) may be needed. Rarely are invasive measurements of pressures in the heart required. Physicians at Houston Methodist have expertise with all of the diagnostic modalities needed to make this diagnosis and prepare a plan of treatment. In most cases, treatment with medication to reduce pain and inflammation is all that is needed, but, at times, surgery may be required to remove the inflamed pericardium.


Our physicians at Houston Methodist specialize in managing constrictive pericarditis at several convenient locations.