Endocarditis is an infection of the endocardium (the inner lining of the heart), the heart valves, or the aorta (the large vessel through which blood leaves the heart). This infection is most often caused by a bacteria that is normally found in certain areas of the body, such as the mouth, the digestive tract and skin, or that has caused an infection somewhere else in the body and that enters the bloodstream and becomes lodged in the heart. This type of infection can damage and even destroy the heart valves. Endocarditis is a rare but very serious disease. It requires long-term antibiotic treatment at the hospital and sometimes emergency surgery.
Healthy people have a low chance of developing endocarditis. However, people with certain heart diseases are at a higher risk of a bacterial infection in the heart. People are at risk if they have:
Some procedures promote the entry of bacteria into the bloodstream and are associated with the risk of endocarditis:
Certain situations are also associated with a risk of endocarditis: skin infections, furuncles (boils), infected cuts, infected acne, or any condition that produces pus.
The symptoms of endocarditis are similar to those of a severe case of persistent flu. Patients generally have a fever (oral temperature >
After filling out a comprehensive questionnaire and performing a physical exam, the doctor will prescribe certain tests or exams to diagnose the disease if he or she suspects endocarditis:
If you are at risk:
Patients who develop endocarditis must be hospitalized and receive IV antibiotics for a period of 4 to 6 weeks. Heart surgery is sometimes necessary to treat a damaged valve or other complications.