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What is Dressler’s syndrome?
Dressler’s syndrome is a type of pericarditis inflammation of the sac surrounding the heart (pericardium). Dressler’s syndrome is believed to be an immune system response after damage to heart tissue or to the pericardium, from events such as a heart attack, surgery or traumatic injury. Symptoms include chest pain, which may be similar to chest pain experienced during a heart attack.
Dressler’s syndrome may also be called postpericardiotomy syndrome, post-myocardial infarction syndrome and post-cardiac injury syndrome. With recent improvements in heart attack treatment, Dressler’s syndrome is less common than it used to be.
Who gets Dressler’s syndrome?
- Dressler Syndrome is a rare form of pericarditis that occurs in the background of an injury to the chest/heart
- It is more common in individuals in the 20-50 year age group
- Both males and females may be affected, though the condition is more common in males
- No racial, ethnic, or geographical preferences are seen
Complications for Dressler’s syndrome
The immune system response that leads to Dressler’s syndrome might also cause fluid to accumulate in the membranes around your lungs (pleural effusion).
Rarely, Dressler’s syndrome can cause more-serious complications, including:
- Cardiac tamponade. Inflammation of the pericardium can cause fluids to accumulate in the sac (pericardial effusion). The fluid can put pressure on the heart, forcing it to work harder and reducing its ability to pump blood efficiently.
- Constrictive pericarditis. Recurring or chronic inflammation can cause the pericardium to become thick or scarred. The scarring can reduce the heart’s ability to pump blood efficiently.
Causes of Dressler’s syndrome
Dressler’s syndrome is associated with an immune system response to heart damage. Your body reacts to the injured tissue by sending immune cells and proteins (antibodies) to clean up and repair the affected area. Sometimes this response causes excessive inflammation in the pericardium.
Postpericardiotomy syndrome might affect 10 to 40 percent of people who have had heart surgery.
What are the Risk Factors for Dressler’s syndrome?
Dressler Syndrome risk factors may include the following:
- Post heart attack or myocardial infarction
- Trauma to the chest due to other reasons such as a surgery or an accident
- A previous diagnosis of acute pericarditis may increase the risk
It is important to note that having a risk factor does not mean that one will get the condition. A risk factor increases ones chances of getting a condition compared to an individual without the risk factors. Some risk factors are more important than others.
Also, not having a risk factor does not mean that an individual will not get the condition. It is always important to discuss the effect of risk factors with your healthcare provider.
Dressler’s syndrome Treatments
The goals are to manage pain and reduce inflammation. Your doctor might recommend over-the-counter medications, such as:
- Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others)
- Naproxen (Aleve)
If those medications don’t help, your doctor might prescribe:
- Colchicine. This anti-inflammatory medication might be used, along with over-the-counter medications, to treat Dressler’s syndrome. Some studies suggest that colchicine taken before cardiac surgery might help prevent postpericardiotomy. The effectiveness of colchicine for treating existing post-cardiac injury syndrome isn’t clear.
- Corticosteroids. These immune-system suppressants can reduce inflammation related to Dressler’s syndrome. Corticosteroids can have serious side effects and might interfere with the healing of damaged heart tissue after a heart attack or surgery. For those reasons, corticosteroids are generally used only when other treatments don’t work.