What is the pericardium?The pericardium is the fluid filled sac that surrounds the heart and the proximal ends of the aorta, vena cava, and the pulmonary artery.
Function of the PericardiumThe pericardium has several functions:
- Keeps the heart contained in the chest cavity.
- Prevents the heart from overexpanding when blood volume increases.
- Limits heart motion.
Pericardial MembranesThe pericardium is divided into three layers:
- Fibrous Pericardium - the outer fibrous sac that covers the heart.
- Parietal Pericardium - lies between the visceral pericardium and the fibrous pericardium.
- Visceral Pericardium - also called the epicardium, this is the outer layer of the wall of the heart.
Pericardial CavityThe pericardial cavity lies between the visceral pericardium and the parietal pericardium. This cavity is filled with pericardial fluid which serves as a shock absorber by reducing friction between the pericardial membranes.
Pericardial DisordersPericarditis is a disorder of the pericardium in which the pericardium becomes swollen or inflamed. Some causes of pericarditis include bacterial or viral infections, cancer, and hear attack.
Pericardial effusion is a disorder caused by the accumulation of large amounts of fluid in the pericardium.