Difference Between Pericarditis and Cardiac Tamponade

Inflammation of the pericardium, a thin membrane that surrounds and protects the heart, is known as pericarditis. When there is a buildup of fluid in the chambers around the heart, this condition is known as cardiac tamponade.

What is Pericarditis?

An inflammation of the pericardial sac is known as pericarditis.

Causes and risk factors − The root cause of pericarditis might be varied. Having cancer can sometimes cause this condition as a side effect. Heart attacks and aortic dissections are common causes of this condition. Pericardial inflammation can be caused by autoimmune illnesses like sarcoidosis or systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Pericarditis risk factors include tuberculosis and a history of heart disease.

Diagnosis − Diagnostics can be aided by analyzing white blood cell counts, CRP levels, and troponin levels in the blood. Pericarditis can also be diagnosed by the use of imaging techniques, including computed tomography (CT) scans and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the chest. Alterations in heart function detectable by an electrocardiogram may be attributable to pericardial inflammation.

Symptoms − Sharp chest discomfort, which may radiate to the arms, is a symptom of pericarditis. Coughing and heavy breathing can aggravate the discomfort.

Complications − Too much fluid surrounding the heart is one of the causes of pericardial problems. As a result, cardiac tamponade develops, which, if left untreated, can be fatal.

Treatment − Pericarditis treatment options include painkillers and maybe some corticosteroids. Sometimes the issue may be handled without having to go to the hospital. Hospitalization may be required if symptoms worsen or problems arise.

What is Cardiac Tamponade?

Cardiac tamponade occurs when the sac that surrounds the heart fills with too much fluid, placing pressure on the heart and reducing its capacity to pump blood throughout the body.

Causes and risk factors − A cardiac tamponade can be caused by a chest injury, which is a common cause. Cardiac tamponade can also occur as a result of pericarditis which has progressed to a more serious stage.

Diagnosis − Cardiac tamponade can be diagnosed with the use of echocardiography. When used together, these symptoms might raise red flags and make a clinician suspicious of tamponade.

Symptoms − Low blood pressure and swollen veins in the neck are signs of cardiac tamponade. If a doctor listens to the heart using a stethoscope, he or she may detect fewer noises. As a group, these three signs are called Beck's triad.

Complications − As a result of cardiac tamponade, the lungs can enlarge, the heart muscle can't pump enough blood to the body, heart failure can set in, and eventually, death can occur. In the absence of medical intervention, cardiac tamponade almost often proves fatal.

Treatment − Pericardiocentesis is a procedure used to treat cardiac tamponade in which the pericardial fluid is drained using a needle and catheter. Another operation that allows fluid to be evacuated from the pericardium through a tiny catheter is percutaneous balloon pericardiotomy (PBP).

Differences Pericarditis and Cardiac Tamponade

The following table highlights the major differences between Pericarditis and Cardiac Tamponade −



Cardiac Tamponade


Pericarditis is an inflammation of the membranes that cover the heart and can lead to serious health complications.

When there is an abnormal accumulation of fluid in the sac that encases the heart, this is known as cardiac tamponade.


Pericarditis can be caused by a number of different things, including autoimmune disorders like sarcoidosis or infections like tuberculosis.

Pericarditis and chest trauma are responsible for cardiac tamponade.


Pain in the chest, especially while coughing or taking heavy breaths, is a sign of pericarditis.

The signs of cardiac tamponade are hypotension, muffled heart sounds, and swollen neck veins.


Opioids and pain relievers are used to treat pericarditis.

Pericardiocentesis or PBP is used to treat cardiac tamponade.


Pericarditis can lead to cardiac tamponade and ultimately death.

When the heart is compressed, it can cause cardiac shock, cardiac failure, and even death.


In this article, we discussed in detail the major differences between Pericarditis and Cardiac Tamponade.

Updated on: 27-Jan-2023


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