Objective: To determine whether surgical pericardiectomy is a safe and effective alternative to medical management for chronic relapsing pericarditis. Patients and Methods: Retrospective review of 184 patients presenting to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, from January 1, 1994, through December 31, 2005, with persistent relapsing pericarditis identified 58 patients who had a pericardiectomy after failed medical management and 126 patients who continued with medical treatment only. The primary outcome variables were in-hospital postoperative mortality or major morbidity, all-cause death, time to relapse, and medication use. Results: Mean ± SD follow-up was 5.5±3.5 years in the surgical group and 5.4±4.4 years in the medical treatment group. At baseline, patients in the surgical group had higher mean relapses (6.9 vs 5.5; P=.01), were more likely to be taking colchicine (43.1% [n=25] vs 18.3% [n=23]; P=.002) and corticosteroids (70.7% [n=41] vs 42.1% [n=53]; P<.001), and were more likely to have undergone a prior pericardiotomy (27.6% [n=16] vs 11.1% [n=14]; P=.003) than the medical treatment group. Perioperative mortality (0%) and major morbidity (3%; n=2) were minimal. Kaplan-Meier analysis revealed no differences in all-cause death at follow-up (P=.26); however, the surgical group had a markedly decreased relapse rate compared with the medical treatment group (P=.009). Medication use was notably reduced after pericardiectomy. Conclusion: In patients with chronic relapsing pericarditis in whom medical management has failed, surgical pericardiectomy is a safe and effective method of relieving symptoms.
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