Bacterial Endocarditis

What Is Bacterial Endocarditis?

Bacterial endocarditis is an infection of the inner lining of the heart known as the endocardium, typically caused by bacteria that have made their way into the bloodstream. It often affects the valves and chambers of the heart, and can lead to serious, potentially life-threatening complications. Bacterial endocarditis is a rare but serious disease that requires prompt diagnosis and treatment.


The most common symptoms of bacterial endocarditis are:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Night sweats
  • Shortness of breath, or breathing difficulty
  • Joint and muscle aches
  • Swelling in the ankles, feet, or abdomen
  • Difficulty concentrating or confusion
  • Pain in the chest or abdomen
  • Visual problems, such as blurred vision


Bacterial endocarditis is caused by bacteria or other germs that enter the bloodstream and settle on the heart valves or other cardiac tissues. This usually happens as a result of a wound, such as a skin infection caused by an injury or surgery, or from an infection that has spread through the body. People with weakened immune systems, which can be caused by diseases such as HIV or cancer, are at a greater risk for developing bacterial endocarditis.

Risk factors

Risk factors for bacterial endocarditis include:

  • A history of bacterial endocarditis
  • Having a heart valve defect, either congenital or acquired
  • Having had a valve repair or valve replacement surgery
  • Having a surgically implanted device, such as a pacemaker or defibrillator
  • Having a weakened immune system, either from an underlying medical condition or from immunosuppressive drugs


If your doctor suspects that you may have bacterial endocarditis, they may order certain tests and procedures to diagnose it. These tests can include blood tests, echocardiograms, MRI scans and CT scans, and chest X-rays.


Treatment for bacterial endocarditis typically involves antibiotics that are given intravenously, along with supportive care. You may also need to have surgery to repair or replace damaged heart valves, or to remove infected heart tissue.


Bacterial endocarditis can lead to serious and potentially life-threatening complications. These include:

  • Heart valve damage
  • Heart rhythm abnormalities
  • Stroke
  • Heart failure
  • Blood clots that could travel to other parts of the body and cause serious damage


The prognosis for bacterial endocarditis depends on the severity of the infection and the underlying health of the patient. With early diagnosis and prompt treatment, the chances of a full recovery are generally good. However, if the infection goes untreated, the prognosis can be grim.