Pericardial effusions are not uncommon in rheumatoid arthritis (RA); however, they are rarely the presenting symptom of the disease. We describe a 55-year-old female who presented to the emergency department with complaints of chest pain and dyspnea on exertion. Initial workup revealed a medium-sized pericardial effusion. The wide spectrum of etiologies, including infectious and non-infectious disease, was explored. Eventually, after ruling out an array of disease states, rheumatologic workup was positive for RA. The initial presentation in our case was atypical due to absence of small joint polyarthritis and other common symptoms of RA. In difficult cases, extensive workup including laboratory tests, electrocardiography, echocardiography and imaging studies can aid in narrowing the causes of pericardial effusion. This case demonstrates that pericardial effusion could be an early presenting feature of RA, even in the absence of more common symptoms, and should be considered in differential diagnosis.
Keywords: Anti-CCP antibody; Pericardial effusion; Pericarditis; Rheumatoid arthritis; Rheumatoid factor.