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Pericarditis means inflammation of the pericardial sac, a tough fibrous covering around the heart. A thin layer of fluid allows the heart to glide essentially without friction within this sac. Pericarditis is most often caused by viral infections, but may also occur with other conditions. When the sac becomes inflamed, it oozes a clear, protein rich fluid into the normally very thin space between the sac and the heart. If enough of this fluid accumulates, it can cause a constriction of the heart and lead to heart failure. If this happens, the fluid may have to be surgically drained to allow the heart to pump unrestricted.
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