The pericardium represents an important focus of morbidity and mortality in patients with cardiovascular disease. Fortunately, in recent years knowledge regarding this enigmatic part of the heart and the diagnosis of related diseases has substantially advanced. To a large extent, this can be attributed to the availability of several noninvasive cardiac imaging modalities. Transthoracic echocardiography, which combines structural and physiologic assessment, is the first-line technique for examination of patients suspected of having or known to have pericardial disease; however, cardiac computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance (MR) imaging are becoming increasingly popular for the study of this part of the heart. Modern multidetector CT scanners merge acquisition speed and high spatial and contrast resolution, with volumetric scanning to provide excellent anatomic detail of the pericardium. Multidetector CT is by far the modality of choice for depiction of pericardial calcifications. MR imaging is probably the best imaging modality for the acquisition of a comprehensive view of the pericardial abnormalities. MR imaging combines cardiac and pericardial anatomic assessment with tissue characterization and appraisal of the effects of pericardial abnormalities on cardiac performance. This review aims to elucidate the role of the pericardium and its interaction with the remainder of the heart in normal and pathologic conditions. It focuses on the rapidly evolving insights regarding pericardial disease provided by modern imaging modalities, not infrequently necessitating reconsideration of evidence that has thus far been taken for granted.
Supplemental material: http://radiology.rsna.org/lookup/suppl/doi:10.1148/radiol.13121059/-/DC1.