The heart is surrounded by a flexible two-layered membrane called the pericardium. The two layers are separated by a thin slick of fluid that allows the layers to glide easily over each other. The roles of the pericardium include keeping the heart in place and protecting it from catching secondary infections.

Pericarditis is inflammation of the pericardium, which causes its two layers to rasp and rub against each other as the heart contracts and relaxes. The symptoms may be similar to those of heart attack and include chest pain and abnormal heart rhythms. Men aged between 20 and 50 years are most susceptible. The broad classifications include viral or bacterial pericarditis, constrictive pericarditis, post-heart attack pericarditis and chronic effusive pericarditis. In many cases, the condition can’t be prevented, but prompt treatment of infections (such as pneumonia) will reduce the risk of bacterial pericarditis. The symptoms are similar to those of heart attack, and include chest pain and abnormal heart rhythms.

Treatment includes medications, bed rest and surgery.