Heart Inflammation
Heart Inflammation

Heart Inflammation Types

The three main types of heart inflammation are endocarditis, pericarditis, and myocarditis.


Endocarditis is inflammation of the endocardium — the inner lining of the heart chambers and valves. Endocarditis is a rare but life-threatening disease. In endocarditis, clumps of bacteria or fungi from another part of your body get into your bloodstream and collect on the endocardium. These clumps occur more often on the heart valves than on the heart chambers. Pieces of these clumps can break off and travel to different parts of the body, blocking blood flow or spreading infection.


Myocarditis is inflammation of the myocardium — the heart muscle. This inflammation can also cause other changes to the heart muscle cells that may be acute (short term) or chronic (long term). Myocarditis can affect small or large sections of the heart muscle, making it harder for the heart to pump blood, which in turn can lead to heart failure, when the heart cannot deliver enough blood to the rest of the body.


Pericarditis is inflammation of the pericardium — the sac surrounding the heart. This sac is made of two thin layers of tissue with a small amount of fluid in between. The fluid keeps the layers from rubbing against each other and causing friction. The pericardium holds the heart in its position in the chest and protects it from infection.


Image of pericarditis
Image of pericarditis Figure A shows the location of the heart in the body and a normal heart and pericardium, which is the membrane, or sac, surrounding the heart. The inset image is an enlarged cross-section of the pericardium that shows its two layers of tissue and the small amount of fluid that is normally between the layers. Figure B shows the heart with pericarditis. The inset image is an enlarged cross-section that shows the inflamed and thickened layers of the pericardium.


Depending on how long you have had it, your doctor may label your pericarditis as acute (it occurs right after the infection or event that caused it but will last only a short time), subacute (it occurs within weeks or a few months after the initial event that caused it), chronic (long term), or recurrent (goes away and comes back).

For more information on the structure of the heart and how it works, visit How the Heart Works.

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