Your doctor will diagnose pericarditis based on your medical history, a physical exam, and test results.
Primary care doctors—such as a family doctor, internist, or pediatrician—often diagnose and treat pericarditis. Other types of doctors also may be involved, such as a cardiologist, pediatric cardiologist, and an infectious disease specialist.
A cardiologist treats adults who have heart problems. A pediatric cardiologist treats children who have heart problems. An infectious disease specialist treats people who have infections.
Your doctor may ask whether you:
Your doctor also may ask about your symptoms. If you have chest pain, he or she will ask you to describe how it feels, where it's located, and whether it's worse when you lie down, breathe, or cough.
When the pericardium (the sac around your heart) is inflamed, the amount of fluid between its two layers of tissue increases. As part of the exam, your doctor will look for signs of excess fluid in your chest.
A common sign is the pericardial rub. This is the sound of the pericardium rubbing against the outer layer of your heart. Your doctor will place a stethoscope on your chest to listen for this sound.
Your doctor may hear other chest sounds that are signs of fluid in the pericardium (pericardial effusion) or the lungs (pleural effusion). These are more severe problems related to pericarditis.
Your doctor may recommend one or more tests to diagnose your condition and show how severe it is. The most common tests are:
Your doctor also may recommend blood tests. These tests can help your doctor find out whether you've had a heart attack, the cause of your pericarditis, and how inflamed your pericardium is.
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September 2, 2014
Gary H. Gibbons
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The NHLBI updates Health Topics articles on a biennial cycle based on a thorough review of research findings and new literature. The articles also are updated as needed if important new research is published. The date on each Health Topics article reflects when the content was originally posted or last revised.