Heart and Blood Conditions


What is pericarditis?

The heart is covered by a thin, sac-like membrane called the pericardium. Pericarditis (pronounced pear-i-car-DIE-tis) is a condition where this membrane becomes irritated (inflamed).

The pericardium has 2 layers: an inner layer and an outer layer. A small amount of fluid normally exists between the 2 layers. When the pericardium becomes inflamed, extra fluid is produced.

If a large amount of fluid builds up, the extra fluid can compress the heart and make it less able to pump. This is called cardiac tamponade (pronounced tam-pah-NAID). This is dangerous and can make the blood pressure drop too low.

Pericarditis in Children

Most of the time, pericarditis results from a viral infection.

In children, pericarditis may happen after heart surgery — not because of an infection, but because their surgeon had to cut through their pericardium to operate on their heart.

Though less common, pericarditis may also be caused by diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus or rheumatoid arthritis, or by drugs or radiation.

Pericarditis at Seattle Children’s

Our heart team has treated many children with pericarditis. We have years of experience with the treatment these patients may require.

When you come to Seattle Children’s, a team of people will take care of your child. Along with your child’s heart doctor (cardiologist), you are connected with nurses, child life specialists, social workers and others, if their expertise is needed. We work together to meet all of your child’s health needs and help your family through this experience.

Seattle Children’s has been treating children since 1907. Our team members are trained in their fields and in meeting the unique needs of children. For example, the doctors who give your child anesthesia are board certified in pediatric anesthesiology. This means they have extra years of training in how to take care of kids. Our child life specialists know how to help children understand their illnesses and treatments in ways that make sense for their age.

Contact Us

Contact the Heart Center at 206-987-2015 for a cardiac referral, a second opinion or more information.