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The post-pericardiotomy syndrome (PPS) affects 10–40% of patients after cardiac surgery, depending on the adopted diagnostic criteria, institution and type of surgery. On this basis, there is a need for standardized criteria for epidemiological and clinical purposes, which we propose on the basis of the largest published clinical trials on PPS prevention. Proposed diagnostic criteria for the PPS include: fever without alternative causes, pleuritic chest pain, friction rub, evidence of new or worsening pleural effusion, and evidence of new or worsening pericardial effusion. At least two of these criteria should be present for the diagnosis. These criteria may be adopted in future clinical trials and studies on the PPS.