The postpericardiotomy syndrome as a cause of pleurisy in rehabilitation patients

B M Kelly, J J Nicholas, R Chhablani, C J Kavinsky
Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation 2000, 81 (4): 517-8
Pleuritic chest pain in patients on a rehabilitation unit may be caused by several conditions. We report 2 cases of postpericardiotomy syndrome (PPS) as a cause of pleuritic pain. PPS occurs in 10% to 40% of patients who have coronary bypass or valve replacement surgery. The syndrome is characterized by fever, chest pain, and a pericardial or pleural friction rub. Its etiology is believed to be viral or immunologic. The syndrome can be a diagnostic challenge, and an increase in length of hospitalization because of it has been documented. Identified risk factors for PPS include age, use of prednisone, and a history of pericarditis. A higher incidence has been reported from May through July. Many patients undergo a battery of expensive procedures before PPS is diagnosed. The pain is sharp, associated with deep inspiration, and changes with position. Pleural effusions may be present and tend to occur bilaterally. Pericardial effusions are a documented complication. A pericardial or pleural rub may be present and is often transient. Serial auscultation is important. Laboratory work provides clues with a mild leukocytosis and an elevated erythrocyte sedimentation rate. However, this does not provide the definitive diagnosis. Cardiac enzymes are not reliably related to the syndrome. An electrocardiogram will show changes similar to those associated with pericarditis. The patient may have a fever, but it is rarely higher than 102.5 degrees F. Complications include pericardial effusions, arrhythmias, premature bypass graft closure, and cardiac tamponade. Treatment consists of a 10-day course of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

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