Endocarditis (infection of the heart valve)

Chest | Cardiology | Endocarditis (infection of the heart valve) (Disease)


Endocarditis is an infection of the endocardium or the heart valves. The endocardium is the membrane that lines the inner surfaces of the heart.

Causes and Risk factors

Endocarditis may occur in people who have certain pre-existing heart diseases. Without medical treatment, the infection may severely harm or even destroy the heart valves. Some dental and surgical procedures increase the risk of endocarditis because bacteria may be introduced into the bloodstream. Endocarditis is also known as ‘infective endocarditis’ or ‘bacterial endocarditis’.

A normal heart has a smooth lining, making it difficult for bacteria to stick to it. However, persons with congenital heart disease may have a roughened area on the heart lining caused by pressure from an abnormal opening or a leaky valve. Even after surgery, roughened areas may remain due to scar tissue formation or patches used to redirect blood flow. These rough areas inside the heart are inviting, opportune places for bacteria to build up and multiply.

Patients with endocarditis can develop:

(1) fever,

(2) fatigue,

(3) chills,

(4) weakness

(5) aching joints and muscles,

(6) night sweats,

(7) edema (fluid collection) in the leg(s), foot (feet), and abdomen,

(8) malaise,

(9) shortness of breath, and

(10) occasionally, scattered small skin lesions.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Treatment options include: a four to eight-week course of antibiotics ; blood-thinning medication – medications such as aspirin or warfarin may be given to treat blood clots ; surgery to repair severe damage to heart tissue ; surgery to repair or replace severely damaged heart valves or destroyed cardiac devices such as prosthetic heart valves. ...

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