This endocardium is a thin membrane that covers the inner surface of the heart. Bacterial endocarditis is an infection of this membrane. Infection occurs when bacteria attaches to the membrane and grow.
The infection is most common when the heart or valves have already been damaged. It can be life-threatening. It can permanently impair the heart valves. This can lead to serious health problems, such as
congestive heart failure
The infection can also cause growths on the valves or other areas of the heart. Pieces of these growths can break off and travel to other parts of the body. This can cause serious complications.
Bacteria can travel to the heart through the blood. It can enter the blood from an infection elsewhere in the body. It can also enter during an activity that causes breaks in the skin or mucous membranes. This activity can be dental work, surgery, or IV drug use. Only certain bacteria cause this infection. The most common are:
The bacteria may then be able to attach to the endocardium. Some heart conditions can increase the chance of infections. These conditions may cause blood flow to be obstructed or pool. This provides a place for the bacteria to build up.
The following conditions put you at greater risk during certain procedures:
Treatment will focus on getting rid of the infection from the blood and heart.
Antibiotics are given through an IV into a vein. You must be admitted to the hospital for this treatment. This therapy may last for 4-6 weeks.
The antibiotics may fail to remove the bacteria. The infection may also return. In this case, surgery may be needed.
Surgery may also be needed if there was damage done to the heart or valves from the infection.
The best way to prevent endocarditis is to avoid the use of illegal IV drugs. Certain heart conditions may increase your risk. Talk to your doctor to find out whether you are at increased risk for this condition. The American Heart Association recommends:
People with high and moderate risk should take antibiotics before and after certain dental and nondental medical procedures.
Take an antibiotic just before and after any procedure that may put you at risk.
Tell your dentist and other health professionals about your heart condition.
Maintain good oral hygiene:
Brush your teeth twice daily.
Visit your dentist for a cleaning at least every six months.
See your dentist if dentures cause discomfort.
Seek medical care immediately for symptoms of an infection.
American Heart Association Medical/Scientific statement: Prevention of bacterial endocarditis. American Heart Association; 1997.
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Braunwald E, Zipes DP, Libby P, et al.
Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine
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Fauci AS, Braunwald E, Isselbacher KJ, et al.
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Rakel RE and Bope ET.
Conn's Current Therapy 2001
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Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care
provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a
substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the
advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to
starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a