Discusses infection of the heart's valves or inner lining (endocardium). Covers cause by bacteria (bacterial endocarditis) or fungi (fungal endocarditis). Looks at symptoms like fever. Covers treatment with medicines or possibly surgery.
What is endocarditis?
Endocarditis is an infection of the heart's valves or inner lining. It occurs when germs get into the bloodstream and settle inside the heart, often on a valve. The infection is usually caused by bacteria. In rare cases, it is caused by fungi.
This infection can damage your heart. It needs to be treated right away. If it isn't treated,
endocarditis can be deadly.
What increases your risk of endocarditis?
Your risk is higher if you have a problem that affects blood flow through your heart. That's because a blood flow problem makes it more
likely that bacteria or fungi will attach to heart tissue. Some other things raise your risk too, because they can let bacteria or fungi enter your bloodstream.
You have a higher risk of endocarditis if you have:
Infections in other organs, such as the lungs, brain, or kidneys.
How is endocarditis diagnosed?
First, your doctor
will ask about your medical history and your symptoms. The doctor will also do a physical exam to check for signs of the
infection. These signs include a
heart murmur, an enlarged spleen, and
bleeding under the nails.
A chest X-ray. This is to see if your heart is enlarged or if you have signs of heart failure.
How is it treated?
Endocarditis is usually treated with antibiotics. You will probably need several weeks of treatment. The antibiotics must be given long enough and at a strong enough dose to destroy all of the bacteria.
At first you will be treated in the hospital. This is so that antibiotics can be given through a vein (IV). After your fever is gone and you are stable, you may be able to continue IV antibiotics at home. A home health nurse can help you with this.
After you have been treated with IV antibiotics, your doctor may want you to take antibiotic pills. If so, take them exactly as prescribed until they are gone. If your symptoms come back, call your doctor right away. You probably will need more antibiotics if testing shows that the bacteria were not completely destroyed.
Some people who have endocarditis need surgery to repair or replace a heart valve or to prevent complications.
What can you do if you are at risk for endocarditis?
Endocarditis is most
dangerous for people who have:
If you have any of these heart problems, you may need
to take antibiotics before you have some kinds of dental work, surgery, or medical procedures. The
antibiotics lower your risk of getting endocarditis. Your doctor can give you
a wallet card to carry that says you need preventive
It's also very important to take good care of your teeth and gums every day. Good oral care can limit the growth of mouth bacteria that could get into your bloodstream.
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Visit the American Heart Association (AHA) website for information on
physical activity, diet, and various heart-related conditions. You can search for information on heart disease and stroke, share information with friends and family, and use tools to help you make heart-healthy goals and plans. Contact the AHA to find your
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about support groups and community programs, including Mended Hearts, a
nationwide organization whose members visit people with heart problems and
provide information and support.
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
P.O. Box 30105
Bethesda, MD 20824-0105
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
(NHLBI) information center offers information and publications about preventing
Diseases affecting the heart and circulation, such as heart
attacks, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, peripheral artery disease, and
heart problems present at birth (congenital heart diseases).
Diseases that affect the lungs, such as asthma, chronic
obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, sleep apnea, and
Diseases that affect the blood, such as anemia,
hemochromatosis, hemophilia, thalassemia, and von Willebrand disease.
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Circulation. Published online April 19, 2007
Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
Stephen Fort, MD, MRCP, FRCPC - Interventional Cardiology
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