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Recurrent pericarditis

Yehuda Adler, MD
Massimo Imazio, MD, FESC
Section Editors
Bernard J Gersh, MB, ChB, DPhil, FRCP, MACC
Jae K Oh, MD
Deputy Editor
Brian C Downey, MD, FACC


Recurrent pericarditis is a common and often vexing problem for specialists in pericardial disease as well as general internists and family clinicians. The term refers to a syndrome in which acute pericarditis recurs after the agent inciting the original acute attack has disappeared or has ceased to be active.

Recurrent pericarditis, including its definition, proposed pathogenesis, clinical manifestations, diagnosis, and treatment, will be reviewed here. The clinical manifestations, diagnosis, and treatment of patients with an initial attack of acute pericarditis are discussed separately. (See "Acute pericarditis: Clinical presentation and diagnostic evaluation" and "Acute pericarditis: Treatment and prognosis".)


The major clinical manifestations of acute pericarditis are chest pain, pericardial friction rub, widespread saddle-shaped or concave upward ST segment elevation on the electrocardiogram (ECG), and pericardial effusion [1]. At least two of these features should usually be present to make the diagnosis. The clinical manifestations of acute pericarditis are discussed in greater detail elsewhere. (See 'Clinical presentation' below and "Acute pericarditis: Clinical presentation and diagnostic evaluation", section on 'Clinical features'.)

Recurrent pericarditis is manifested by recurrence of the symptoms of acute pericarditis (table 1); however, the predominant feature of recurrent pericarditis is usually chest pain, and other clinical manifestations of acute pericarditis may not be present. The term recurrent pericarditis refers to a syndrome in which acute pericarditis recurs after the agent inciting the original acute attack has disappeared or has ceased to be active [2-5]. The recurrence of symptoms can be at any point following the prior cessation of acute pericarditis symptoms, but usually occurs weeks to months later. Generally there is an arbitrary defined period of six weeks from the initial or previous attack. Cases with incessant or persistent symptoms within six weeks are considered "incessant pericarditis" rather than "recurrent pericarditis."

The COlchicine for REcurrent pericarditis (CORE) trial, which enrolled 120 patients with recurrent pericarditis to evaluate colchicine therapy, required patients to have both of the following clinical criteria to meet their definition of recurrent pericarditis [6]:

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Apr 18, 2017.
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