Dressler’s Syndrome: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

What is Dressler’s Syndrome?

Dressler’s Syndrome is a pathological condition of the heart in which there is inflammation of the pericardium which is a sac like structure which surrounds the heart. This condition arises due to damage to a heart tissue or the pericardium from events such as a myocardial infarction and the response of the immune system after that.

The symptoms of Dressler’s Syndrome are quite similar to that of a myocardial infarction like chest pain and shortness of breath. With the advances that medical science has made with regard to treatments of cardiac conditions Dressler’s Syndrome is far less common now than it was prior.

What is Dressler's Syndrome?

What Causes Dressler’s Syndrome?

As stated, Dressler’s Syndrome is caused as a result of the body’s immune response to a damage caused to the heart from a cardiac event. When a tissue or the pericardium is injured during a cardiac event, the body’s immune response starts producing antibodies to repair the damage done and this is what causes inflammation of the pericardium causing Dressler’s Syndrome. It is estimated that about 40% of individuals who have had a heart surgery end up having Dressler’s Syndrome.

What are the Symptoms of Dressler’s Syndrome?

The symptoms of Dressler’s Syndrome occur after a period of time has elapsed post a cardiac event like a myocardial infarction, cardiac surgery, or an injury to the heart from some other source. The symptoms of Dressler’s Syndrome are:

  • Chest pain
  • Fever.

How is Dressler’s Syndrome Diagnosed?

In order to diagnose Dressler’s Syndrome, the physician will first take a detailed history of the patient to see if there has been a history of a myocardial infarction in the recent past or whether the patient has undergone any cardiac surgery. A physical examination will then be conducted to include listening for any heart murmurs to rule out another cause for the symptoms. Other than this, the following tests may be recommended to diagnose Dressler’s Syndrome.

Echocardiogram: This test will be done to see whether the heart is functioning normally or not. This test is done by sending sound waves which produce an image of the heart and the physician can see whether there is any inflammation or fluid collection around the heart.

Electrocardiogram: In this test electrical impulses in the heart are recorded to check whether the heart is functioning normally or not but if an individual has had surgery then in majority of the cases this test will be abnormal hence this is not a test which can definitively confirm the diagnosis of Dressler’s Syndrome but can just point towards it.

Chest x-ray: This can help identify any evidence of fluid accumulation around the heart area.

Once these tests are done, the results of these tests will definitively confirm the diagnosis of Dressler’s Syndrome.

How is Dressler’s Syndrome Treated?

The main aim of treating Dressler’s Syndrome is to bring down the inflammation and reduce pain. For this, the following medications may be recommended:

  • Aspirin
  • Ibuprofen
  • Naproxen.

If these prove to be ineffective then stronger medications will be prescribed like Colchicine, steroids, and immune suppressants in order to treat Dressler’s Syndrome.
The complications that arise due to Dressler’s Syndrome are treated more invasively and include drainage of excess fluid around the heart and removal of the pericardium in total in order to treat Dressler’s Syndrome.

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:April 20, 2017

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