Infectious endocarditis is an infection of the lining of the heart chambers and heart valves that is caused by bacteria, fungi, or other infectious substances.
Endocarditis is usually a result of a blood infection. Bacteria or other infectious substance can enter the bloodstream during certain medical procedures, including dental procedures, and travel to the heart, where it can settle on damaged heart valves. The bacteria can grow and may form infected clots that break off and travel to the brain, lungs, kidneys, or spleen.
Most people who develop infectious endocarditis have underlying heart disease or valve problems.
However, an organism commonly found in the mouth, Streptococcus viridans, is responsible for about 50% of all bacterial endocarditis cases. This is why dental procedures increase your chances for developing this condition. Such procedures are especially risky for children with congenital heart conditions. As a result, it is common practice for children with some forms of congenital heart disease and adults with certain heart-valve conditions to take antibiotics before any dental work.
Other common culprits include Staphylococcus aureus and enterococcus. Staphylococcus aureus can infect normal heart valves, and is the most common cause of infectious endocarditis in intravenous drug users.
Less common causes of infectious endocarditis include pseudomonas, serratia, and candida.
The following increase your chances for developing endocarditis:
Intravenous drug users are also at risk for this condition, because unsterile needles can cause bacteria to enter the bloodstream.
Symptoms of endocarditis may develop slowly (subacute) or suddenly (acute). Fever is the classic symptom and may persist for days before any other symptoms appear.
Other symptoms may include:
The health care provider may hear abnormal sounds, called murmurs, when listening to your heart with a stethoscope.
A physical exam may also reveal:
A history of congenital heart disease raises the level of suspicion. An eye exam may show bleeding in the retina a central area of clearing. This is known as Roth's spots.
The following tests may be performed:
You will be admitted to the hospital so you can receive antibiotics through a vein. Long-term, high-dose antibiotic treatment is needed to get rid of the bacteria. Treatment is usually given for 4 - 6 weeks, depending on the specific type of bacteria. Blood tests will help your doctor choose the best antibiotic.
Surgery may be needed to replace damaged heart valves.
Early treatment of bacterial endocarditis generally has a good outcome. Heart valves may be damaged if diagnosis and treatment are delayed.
Call your health care provider if you note the following symptoms during or after treatment:
The American Heart Association recommends preventive antibiotics for people at risk for infectious endocarditis before:
Antibiotics are more likely to be recommended those with the following risk factors:
Continued medical follow-up is recommended for people with a previous history of infectious endocarditis.
Persons who use intravenous drugs should seek treatment for addiction. If this is not possible, use a new needle for each injection, avoid sharing any injection-related paraphernalia, and use alcohol pads before injecting to reduce risk.
Endocarditis - infectious