Cholesterol Pericarditis Associated with Rheumatoid Arthritis
B. Knobel, P. Rosman
Dept. of Medicine B, Edith Wolfson Medical Center, Holon; and Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel Aviv University
Cholesterol pericarditis (CP) is a rare and unusual disease characterized by chronic pericardial effusion with high cholesterol concentration. Precipitation of cholesterol crystals may occur and induce inflammation and constrictive pericarditis. CP may be idiopathic, but is usually associated with a systemic disease, such as tuberculosis, myxedema, or as in our case, rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
We present a 78-year-old woman with RA, typical deformities of the metacarpo- and metatarso-phalangeal joints and subcutaneous rheumatoid nodules. She was hospitalized with increasing dyspnea and weakness and a 2-dimensional transthoracic echocardiogram showed a large pericardial effusion, without tamponade.
Blood cholesterol was 208 mg/dl, triglycerides 169 mg/dl, LDH 37 u/L and rheumatoid factor 2560 u; glucose, kidney, and thyroid function tests were normal and PPD test negative. Pericardiocentesis yielded 800 ml of opaque, cloudy fluid, with glucose 19 mg/dl, cholesterol 264 mg/dl (normal 20-40 mg/dl), triglycerides 169 mg/dl, LDH 5820 u/L and rheumatoid factor 40 u; viral titers and cultures for bacterial, mycobacterial and fungal infections were negative. The pericardial fluid had a distinctive scintillating, gold-paint appearance and many cholesterol crystals were evident microscopically.
The patient responded to treatment with methotrexate and steroids. Factors responsible for increase in pericardial fluid cholesterol may be its liberation from injured pericardial cells and rheumatoid nodules, lysis of red cells, or lymphatic obstruction and impairment of the absorptive capacity of the pericardium.