Tuberculosis (TB) typically affects the lungs but can affect other body areas. If Mycobacterium tuberculosis — the bacteria that causes TB —infects the heart’s pericardium, it can lead to a condition called tuberculous pericarditis (TBP).
Pericarditis refers to swelling of the pericardium, which is a protective sac-like membrane surrounding the heart. TBP can lead to serious complications, including severe forms of pericarditis and excessive fluid buildup around the heart, which may be life threatening.
Early diagnosis and treatment can help reduce the risk of complications.
This article examines what TBP is and its symptoms, outlook, diagnosis, and treatment.
TB is a transmissible disease that can occur when Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria enter the body —
Viral or bacterial infections commonly cause pericarditis. Other noninfectious causes include injury, heart surgery, and cancer. Although it is
In TBP, Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria infect the pericardium. The bacteria
- Acute pericarditis: Pericarditis that develops suddenly and does not
- Constrictive pericarditis: A severe condition in which the pericardium tissue becomes hardened and thick, preventing the heart from functioning correctly.
- Massive pericardial effusion: Pericardial effusion refers to an accumulation of fluid in the pericardium. This may cause cardiac tamponade.
- Cardiac tamponade: This is a condition in which
excessive amountsof fluid gather inside the pericardium and compress the heart. Cardiac tamponade is a medical emergency.
TBP can develop with vague or nonspecific symptoms, often making it challenging to recognize and diagnose.
People with TBP
Some symptoms may include:
What is the mortality rate for TBP?
Still, early diagnosis and treatment
There are no simple, rapid testing methods available to diagnose TBP. This can make diagnosis challenging. The condition goes undiagnosed in around
When doctors suspect TBP, they obtain samples first. This includes extracting fluid from the pericardium or ordering a biopsy of pericardial tissue. A pericardial biopsy involves
Tests typically involve detecting Mycobacterium tuberculosis using the following lab techniques:
- polymerase chain reactions tests — this is usually a first-line test, and results are highly reliable if positive
Doctors may also send samples for histopathological exam, which involves looking for signs of damage or disease in extracted tissues.
The time for results to come back can vary. For example, it can take 6 weeks for a fluid culture to return.
Still, doctors must assess the test results before determining whether a person has TBP.
TBP treatment aims to do
- destroy and control Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria
- relieve compression on the heart
- reduce the risk of complications
If excessive fluid has gathered in the pericardium, a person will require
Learn more about how doctors treat TB.
TBP occurs when the bacteria that cause TB — Mycobacterium tuberculosis — infects the pericardium. The condition can cause life threatening complications, such as constrictive pericarditis and cardiac tamponade.
The symptoms of tuberculous pericarditis can be nonspecific. This, in combination with a lack of fast, reliable testing methods, means it can be difficult for doctors to diagnose TBP.
Treatment typically consists of medication that doctors prescribe to treat TB. If fluid accumulates in the pericardium, a person may need excess fluid removing to prevent heart compression.
The outlook for TBP is generally unfavorable, and the condition has a high mortality rate. Still, early diagnosis and treatment can help improve the outlook.