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Pericarditis.

BACKGROUND: Pericarditis is an important diagnosis to consider, along with various other differential diagnoses, in a patient who presents with chest pain.

OBJECTIVE: This article describes in detail the common features, management and complications of pericarditis in the general practice setting.

DISCUSSION: Characteristic clinical findings in pericarditis include pleuritic chest pain and pericardial friction rub on auscultation of the left lower sternal border. Electrocardiography may reveal diffuse PR-segment depressions and diffuse ST-segment elevations with upward concavity. The most common aetiologies of pericarditis are idiopathic and viral, and the most common treatment for these are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and colchicine. The complications of pericarditis include pericardial effusion, tamponade and myopericarditis. The presence of effusion, constriction or tamponade can be confirmed on echocardiography. Tamponade is potentially life-threatening and is diagnosed by the clinical findings of decreased blood pressure, elevated jugular venous pressure, muffled heart sounds on auscultation and pulsus paradoxus.

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