Subacute Bacterial

What is Subacute Bacterial Endocarditis (SBE)?

Subacute bacterial endocarditis (SBE) is an infection of the heart's inner lining (endocardium) caused by bacteria. It usually develops slowly over several weeks or months, in contrast to acute bacterial endocarditis, which develops quickly in just days. While it is more mild than its acute counterpart, subacute bacterial endocarditis can cause serious illness if left untreated.

Causes of Subacute Bacterial Endocarditis

Subacute bacterial endocarditis is caused by a bacterial infection that affects the endocardium, the lining of the heart. The most common type of bacteria that causes this type of infection is Streptococcus viridans, followed by enterococci, staphylococci, and sometimes fungi.

Risk Factors for Subacute Bacterial Endocarditis

Due to weakened heart valves, those with certain heart conditions are at a higher risk of developing SBE. People with the following conditions are at an increased risk of SBE:

  • Prosthetic heart valves
  • Rheumatic heart disease
  • Other heart valve diseases
  • Congenital heart defects
  • Previous history of endocarditis
  • Cancer or immune deficiency

Signs and Symptoms of Subacute Bacterial Endocarditis

Signs and symptoms of subacute bacterial endocarditis may include:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Chills
  • Joint pain
  • Weight loss
  • Chest pain
  • Palpitation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Numbness in extremities
  • Heart murmur

Diagnosis and Treatment of Subacute Bacterial Endocarditis

If your doctor suspects SBE, they may order a series of tests to confirm the diagnosis, including a physical exam, echocardiogram, and blood culture. Treatment for SBE often involves a course of powerful antibiotics, which can control the infection and help your body fight the underlying infection. In cases where the infection is more severe, surgery may be necessary to repair or replace damaged heart valves.

Preventing Subacute Bacterial Endocarditis

The best way to prevent SBE is to take steps to reduce your risk of infection. For people with weakened heart valves, it is important to practice good oral hygiene and to avoid activities that can put you at risk of infection, such as intravenous drug use or dental procedures. SBE can also be prevented by speaking with your doctor about antibiotics that can be taken before certain medical procedures.