You are reviewing a 42-year-old man in the outpatient clinic who is under follow-up for recurrent troublesome attacks of acute pericarditis. He has had 16 episodes of pericarditis which initially followed a viral illness. No underlying systemic cause has been found despite extensive investigations. The episodes are associated with small- to moderate-sized pericardial effusions. Initially, the episodes respond well to systemic steroids; however, he has troublesome steroid side effects. On weaning the steroids with appropriate colchicine cover, the episodes recur.
What is the best option with regard to management?
This is a case of idiopathic pericarditis with characteristic recurrences on steroid withdrawal. Surgical pericardiectomy has been shown to alleviate the disorder and should be considered in cases of troublesome recurrent disease. There is a risk of failure to resolve symptoms if there is residual pericardial tissue postoperatively. In addition, recurrent disease can occur in the visceral pericardium, which cannot be stripped surgically.
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