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What is infective endocarditis?
Infective endocarditis (also known as bacterial endocarditis) is an infection of the valves and inner lining of the heart (called the endocardium). It happens when bacteria or other organisms from the skin, mouth, intestines or urinary tract enter the bloodstream (usually during a dental or medical procedure) and infect the heart.
CAUSES & RISK FACTORS
Who gets infective endocarditis?
Although infective endocarditis can occur in anyone, people who already have a diagnosed heart valve problem, an artificial valve or a heart defect are at greatest risk. Having a heart murmur sometimes increases the chances of getting infective endocarditis. Your healthcare provider can usually determine whether you have a type of heart murmur that increases your risk of infective endocarditis.
Do medical and dental procedures increase the risk of infective endocarditis?
If you have a heart defect or valve problem, dental work (including professional teeth cleaning) and some medical procedures (such as colonoscopy, cystoscopy and sigmoidoscopy) can increase the risk of bacteria entering the bloodstream.
DIAGNOSIS & TESTS
How can you tell if you have INFECTIVE ENDOCARDITIS ?
Fever, chills and other flu-like symptoms may be the only signs of infective endocarditis . Other symptoms are unexplained weight loss and weakness. Your healthcare provider may suspect you have infective endocarditis if they hear abnormal heart sounds with a stethoscope. Your healthcare provider will then need to do more tests, such as blood tests and echocardiography (looking at the heart by using ultrasound) to find out if you have infective endocarditis.
How is infective endocarditis treated?
Infective endocarditis is treated with antibiotics. Antibiotics are usually started intravenously (through an IV) in the hospital, but many people can finish their treatment at home. For more complicated infections, heart surgery may be needed.
Are there complications of infective endocarditis?
Once infected, your heart may not pump blood as well as it did before. This is called heart failure. Other problems include irregularities of the heartbeat, damage to the heart muscle and blood clots. If infective endocarditis isn’t treated, it can lead to death.
Can infective endocarditis prevented?
If you have a heart defect or valve problem, be sure to inform your healthcare provider or dentist. If you plan to have your teeth cleaned or have one of the procedures that increases your risk for infective endocarditis, you may need antibiotics prior to the procedure.
The antibiotics can help keep bacteria from surviving in your bloodstream. Check with your healthcare provider to see if you require antibiotics before a dental or surgical procedure.
QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
- Am I at risk for infective endocarditis?
- How can I make sure that health care workers and my dentist know about my risk for infective endocarditis?
- Do I need to take antibiotics? How should I take them?
- Will antibiotics interact with any of the other medicine(s) I currently take?
- Does infective endocarditis increase my risk for other long-term health problems?
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada website: http://www.heartandstroke.ca/heart/conditions/infective-endocarditis
Management of Bacterial Endocarditis by BE Giessel, MD; CJ Koenig, MD; RL Blake Jr, MD (03/15/00, http://www.aafp.org/afp/20000315/1725.html)