Infectious Endocarditis

Infectious Endocarditis: Overview

Infectious endocarditis is a serious infection of the endocardium, the inner lining of the heart. It mainly affects the heart valves and can lead to serious complications. Endocarditis is caused by bacteria, fungi, or other microorganisms. These organisms enter the bloodstream and attach to the heart valves or damaged areas of the endocardium. Treatment typically consists of antibiotics and surgical repair of the valve.

Symptoms of Infectious Endocarditis

The symptoms of endocarditis can vary depending on the type of bacteria that is causing the infection. Common symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain or tenderness in the area of the infected heart valve
  • Excessive sweating
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Lethargy

Diagnosis of Infectious Endocarditis

Your doctor may perform blood tests, such as a complete blood count (CBC) or an erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), which can help detect inflammation. Your doctor may also order an echocardiogram to evaluate the heart valves for abnormalities. Your doctor may also order other tests, such as a chest X-ray or a CT scan of the chest, to check for any other organs or structures that may be involved with the infection.

Treatment of Infectious Endocarditis

Treatment of endocarditis typically consists of antibiotics and valve surgery. If the infection is caused by a fungus, your doctor may prescribe antifungal medications. Antibiotics are the most common treatment for bacterial endocarditis. Surgery may be necessary to repair or replace the valve if the infection has caused damage or if the infection is not responding to antibiotics.

Prevention of Infectious Endocarditis

The best way to prevent endocarditis is to practice good dental and medical hygiene. Make sure you brush and floss your teeth at least twice a day and visit your dentist regularly for dental cleanings. Be sure to ask your doctor about any medical procedure or surgery that requires the use of any instrument that could potentially cause the bacteria to enter your bloodstream. Following these steps will help reduce your risk of developing endocarditis.