To find a doctor, call 800-667-5356 or click below:

Find a Doctor

Request an Appointment

left banner
right banner
Smaller Larger

Diagnosis

Physical Exam

Your doctor will start by taking your medical history and asking questions about your symptoms. The doctor will also perform a physical exam and check your heart sounds using a stethoscope, listening for a rubbing or creaking sound known as "pericardial rub." The sound is produced by the inflamed layers of the pericardium rubbing against each other.

Diagnostic Tests

Your doctor may also schedule you to undergo any number of tests to determine such things as whether you have suffered a heart attack, if fluid has collected in the pericardial sac or whether there are signs of inflammation. These tests may include:

ECG/EKG WavesElectrocardiogram (ECG)

This is a painless, noninvasive test in which patches with electrodes are attached to your skin to measure electrical impulses produced by your heart. These impulses are recorded as waves displayed on a monitor or printed out on graph paper. It shows how fast your heart is beating and its rhythm (steady or irregular). Certain results may indicate pericarditis.

Echocardiogram

This painless, noninvasive test uses sound waves to create a moving picture of your heart. An echocardiogram provides information about the size and shape of your heart. The test is performed by placing a probe on your chest wall. It is the same technique used in sonograms in pregnant women. The test can show fluid accumulation in the pericardium.

Chest x-ray

Images show the size and shape of your heart and may reveal an enlarged heart if fluid has accumulated in the pericardium.

CT Scan

A computerized tomography scan can show more detailed images of your heart and the pericardium than a conventional x-ray. It can also show fluid accumulation, signs of inflammation or scarring of the pericardium.

MRI

A magnetic resonance imaging scan is a noninvasive test that uses a strong magnetic field to produce images of your heart and does not use any radiation. An MRI scan can show fluid in the pericardium and inflammation of the pericardial layers. Please inform your doctor about any metal that may be present in your body, such as clips from prior surgery, foreign body from trauma or other.

Blood Tests

Such tests can determine if you are having a heart attack and can test the fluid in the pericardium to try and find out the cause of pericarditis.

Cardiac Catheterization

AngiographyThis is an invasive test which involves injecting a dye into your arteries in what is called an angiogram. The dye is delivered through a long, thin, flexible tube called a catheter that is threaded through a leg artery into the coronary arteries.

This procedure is rarely needed to diagnose pericarditis, although it may occasionally be necessary to exclude other causes for your chest pain, such as a heart attack.

Watch Video Animation

To watch a video animation of a coronary angiography, click here .

Contact Information

Cardiovascular Medicine
Division of the CardioVascular Institute
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
330 Brookline Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
617-667-8800

RELATED LINKS