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Therapy for Pericarditis

Basic Facts

  • The pericardium is a fluid-filled, double-layered fibrous sac that surrounds and protects the heart. Pericarditis is an inflammation of the pericardium.
  • The onset of pericarditis may be sudden and severe and then dissipate, such as when it is caused by a virus, or it may recur over a course of many years.
  • Common treatments for pericarditis range from over-the-counter and prescription medication, such as ibuprofen and steroidal drugs, to pericardiectomy, or the removal of the pericardium.
The goal of treating acute pericarditis, an inflammation of the fibrous sac that surrounds the heart, is to relieve symptoms and managing the underlying disease or condition that is causing the inflammation. In most cases, treatment of acute pericarditis is done in a hospital setting.

Several types of medications treat of pericarditis, including: Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs). Nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen relieve the chest pain and inflammation caused by pericarditis.

Opioids. Opioids, such as morphine or codeine, relieve intense pain.

Corticosteroids. If NSAIDs do not relieve inflammation, corticosteroids such as prednisone, may be prescribed.


Because of possible interactions with other drugs, the patient should report any other medications that he or she is taking to a physician prior to undergoing medication treatment for pericarditis. Pregnant women should discuss these treatment methods with their physician because of possible harm to the fetus.


NSAIDs. These medications usually take effect within 30 minutes act for about 4 hours.

Common side effects may include:
  • Heartburn;
  • Nausea;
  • Constipation;
  • Headache;
  • Dizziness; and
  • Drowsiness.
The patient should report any of the following serious side effects to a physician immediately:
  • Swelling;
  • Shortness of breath;
  • Black stool;
  • Confusion;
  • Difficulty breathing;
  • Agitation;
  • Fatigue;
  • Chest pain; or
  • Bloody vomit.
Opioids. These medications usually take effect within 30 to 60 minutes. Opioids usually act for 4 to 12 hours.

Common side effects may include:
  • Dizziness;
  • Nausea;
  • Lightheadedness;
  • Vomiting;
  • Constipation;
  • Drowsiness; and
  • Itching.
The patient should report any of the following serious side effects to a physician immediately:
  • Confusion;
  • Weakness;
  • Severe drowsiness;
  • Loss of consciousness;
  • Very small pupils;
  • Slurred speech;
  • Seizures;
  • Slow breathing; or
  • Cold and damp skin.
Corticosteroids. The onset and duration of effect of these medications varies.

Common side may include:
  • Indigestion;
  • Nervousness;
  • Increased appetite;
  • Weight gain;
  • Increased blood pressure;
  • Fluid retention;
  • Bruising;
  • Insomnia;
  • Susceptibility to infections; and
  • Prolonged healing of wounds.
The patient should report any of the following serious side effects to a physician immediately:
  • Increased thirst;
  • Increased urination;
  • Rectal bleeding;
  • Vision impairments;
  • Hallucinations;
  • Confusion;
  • Depression;
  • Euphoria;
  • Paranoia;
  • Mood swings; or
  • Blistered skin.

These drugs require medical supervision. The patient should not stop taking these medications with first consulting a physician.

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