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Getting a diagnosis

Healthcare providers have specific ways of determining if you are experiencing a pericarditis flare.

Ruling out heart attack

Your healthcare provider should perform tests, such as an electrocardiogram (ECG/EKG), to determine if you are having a heart attack.

Evaluating medical history

Your healthcare provider may ask questions about your medical history:

  • Previous illnesses
  • Past medical procedures
  • Other possible conditions (especially autoimmune conditions, including lupus or rheumatoid arthritis)

Most importantly, your healthcare provider may ask if you have had a previous pericarditis flare and how long it has been since your last one.

Listening to the heart

Your healthcare provider may listen to your heart for a special sound called a “pericardial rub,” which happens when the inflamed layers of the pericardium rub together.

Looking at the heart

Your healthcare provider may perform 1 or more imaging tests to examine the physical condition of your heart.

  • X-ray: to check for enlargement of the heart and pericardium
  • Echocardiogram: uses sound waves to produce an image that shows how well your heart is working and if there is any extra fluid in the pericardium (called pericardial effusion)
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan: for a more detailed picture of the heart and pericardium to rule out other conditions
  • Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): to take pictures of your heart to show if there is swelling (inflammation) in the pericardium

Taking blood tests

Your healthcare provider may obtain a blood sample to look for special markers that suggest inflammation:

  • Elevated levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) and/or erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR—also called “sed rate”) indicate underlying inflammation

Preparing for your visit

Your treatment journey may start by seeing your family doctor or visiting the emergency room. During your visit, it is important to explain your symptoms in detail so you are referred to a doctor trained in heart conditions (a cardiologist).

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When seeking care, it is important to educate yourself about the disease and prepare for your doctor visit, because advocating for yourself will help ensure that you get the best care possible. It is especially important if you have been diagnosed with or suspect you have recurrent pericarditis.

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Recurrent pericarditis is a rare disorder and it’s possible that your healthcare provider may not be familiar with your symptoms and treatment options. Even if you’re seeing a specialist, be sure to come prepared so you can ask the right questions to receive the best possible care.

Real takes

When did the physician first use the word “recurrent”

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A medical student who is living with recurrent pericarditis gives us his take on diagnosis and treatment issues.


Download your Doctor Discussion Guide.

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Be your own best advocate for getting the care you need. This guide includes tips to prepare for your visit, questions to ask your healthcare provider, and space to record important information such as your health history, symptoms, and triggers. Print it, fill it out, and take it with you to your visit.

Steps to prepare

At your appointment

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Speak up

If you don’t understand a test result or something your healthcare provider says, ask them to explain it in more detail. It’s OK to ask for specific tests or to see a specialist, such as a cardiologist, for a consultation.

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Ask for a treatment plan

Managing recurrent pericarditis is an ongoing process. Ask your doctor about treatment options and ways to manage your disease.

Did you know?

Getting treatment for recurrent pericarditis as early as possible can help avoid serious issues with your heart that can affect how well it works.

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