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Constrictive heart disease, or constrictive pericarditis, is long-term inflammation of the sac-like covering of the heart, or pericardium, with thickening and scarring.

Related conditions include:

  • Bacterial pericarditis
  • Pericarditis
  • Pericarditis after heart attack


Most of the time, constrictive heart disease occurs due to issues that cause inflammation to develop around the heart, such as:

  • Heart surgery
  • Radiation therapy to the chest
  • Tuberculosis

It is rare in children.


When you have constrictive heart disease, the inflammation causes the covering of the heart to become thick and rigid. This makes it hard for the heart to stretch properly when it beats. As a result, the heart chambers don't fill up with enough blood. Blood backs up behind the heart, causing the heart to swell and other symptoms of heart failure.

Symptoms of chronic constrictive heart disease include:

  • Difficulty breathing that develops slowly and gets worse
  • Fatigue
  • Long-term swelling of the legs and ankles
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Weakness

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