Constrictive pericarditis: its history and current status

Clin Cardiol. 1995 Jun;18(6):341-50. doi: 10.1002/clc.4960180610.


The diagnosis of constrictive pericarditis remains a challenge because it is often mimicked by restrictive cardiomyopathy. The last few years have seen numerous advances in our ability to differentiate between these two conditions which often have similar physical findings and hemodynamics. This review begins with a brief history of constrictive pericarditis; this is followed by an extensive discussion of newer etiologies, and then the classical clinical history and physical examination findings are described. Radiologic, electrocardiographic, and angiographic findings are discussed. The hemodynamics of constrictive pericarditis are reviewed. Recent results of echocardiographic and echo-Doppler investigations are presented. Emphasis is placed upon the limitations of M-mode echocardiography in the diagnosis of constrictive pericarditis. The value of echocardiographic Doppler studies of mitral and tricuspid flow velocity patterns, as well as of those in the pulmonary veins and hepatic veins, is described. Nuclear ventriculograms and angiocardiograms tend to show more rapid ventricular filling in constrictive pericarditis than in restrictive cardiomyopathy. Although only a small number of patients has been studied, these evaluations seem to have merit in separating restrictive cardiomyopathy from constrictive pericarditis. The role of computed tomography scanning and magnetic resonance imaging studies of pericardial thickness in confirming the presence of constrictive pericarditis is discussed. Abnormal pericardial thickening (> 3 mm) confirms the diagnosis of constrictive pericarditis, but only if the characteristic hemodynamic pattern is present. The usefulness of endomyocardial biopsy in recognizing specific varieties of restrictive cardiomyopathy is presented.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Echocardiography
  • Electrocardiography
  • Hemodynamics / physiology
  • Humans
  • Pericarditis, Constrictive* / diagnosis
  • Pericarditis, Constrictive* / etiology
  • Pericarditis, Constrictive* / physiopathology
  • Pericarditis, Constrictive* / therapy