Animal model of acute pericarditis and its progression to pericardial fibrosis and adhesions: ultrastructural studies

Am J Anat. 1987 Dec;180(4):373-90. doi: 10.1002/aja.1001800408.


To study the evolution of pericardial inflammation, we have developed a model of pericarditis in sheep by surgically injecting heat-killed staphylococci and Freund's adjuvant into the pericardial cavity under sterile conditions. The pericarditis evolved through the following phases: 1) inflammatory response, 2) mesothelial cell injury and desquamation, and 3) fibrotic phase. At 3-24 hr there was increased microvascular permeability, which resulted in the exudation of fluid, neutrophils, macrophages, and fibrin into the pericardial cavity and the pericardial interstitium. By 72 hr, large numbers of inflammatory cells were aggregated on the mesothelial surfaces and dispersed throughout the pericardial cavity, either as free-floating cells or located between strands of fibrin. At 6 days, fibrinolysis was apparent along the mesothelial surfaces; and newly formed collagen fibrils were deposited throughout the interstitial spaces and among the aggregated cells. These fibrils provided a matrix for the growth of new blood and lymphatic vessels into new connective tissue on both parietal and visceral pericardial surfaces. At 2 weeks, intrapericardial fibrosis had produced focal adhesions between the pericardial surfaces. At 1 month, extensive areas of the pericardial cavity were obliterated. By 9 months, there was a marked reduction in the numbers of cells and blood vessels and increased deposition of collagen and elastic fibers. The intrapericardial injection of heat-killed staphylococci and adjuvant provides a reproducible animal model to study the time course of pericardial inflammation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Fibrosis / pathology
  • Freund's Adjuvant / administration & dosage
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Pericarditis / pathology*
  • Pericardium / ultrastructure*
  • Sheep
  • Staphylococcal Infections / pathology
  • Time Factors
  • Tissue Adhesions


  • Freund's Adjuvant