Endocarditis

Endocarditis is an inflammation of the inside lining (endocardium) of the heart chambers and heart valves. This infection can lead to heart valve damage or other serious complications.

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Symptoms

Endocarditis can produce a number of symptoms, which can develop gradually or suddenly. These include:

  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Fever, chills or night sweats
  • Irregular heart beat
  • Joint pain
  • Paleness
  • Shortness of breath

 

Causes and Risk Factors

Risk factors include intravenous (IV) drug use, previous valve surgery and recent dental surgery. Endocarditis is usually caused by a bacterial infection, but may also develop from fungal or unknown infections.

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Diagnosis

Endocarditis can be indicated by the patient's medical history - specifically pertaining to known risk factors, such as congenital heart disease, IV drug use, recent dental surgery and rheumatic fever. A physical examination may reveal other indicators, such as abnormal fingernail growth or bleeding, a heart murmur, retinal hemorrhaging or spleen enlargement. To confirm a diagnosis, the following tests could be performed:

  • Blood culture laboratory tests can detect bacteria and fungi in the blood
  • Chest X-ray
  • Computed tomography (CT) scans use X-rays to create slice images of the heart that can be compiled into a complete three-dimensional image
  • Echocardiography uses soundwaves to create a moving image of the heart
  • Transesophageal echocardiography
  • Ventilation/perfusion (V/Q) scans are nuclear medicine procedures for evaluating circulation
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Treatments

Early diagnosis and treatment of endocarditis is key to a successful outcome. Administering IV antibiotics is usually the first step in treatment. Long-term drug therapy with bacteria-specific antibiotics is necessary to completely eradicate the infection. If the disease causes heart valve damage, surgery may be needed to replace the affected heart valve.

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