Infective Endocarditis: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment


Infective endocarditis (IE), also known as bacterial endocarditis (BE), is an infection of the endocardium which is the inner lining of your heart chambers and heart valves. IE is usually caused by bacteria originating from another part of your body, such as mouth, skin and respiratory system. The bacteria spread through your bloodstream and attach to damaged areas in your heart. Although IE is not common, people having damaged heart valves, artificial heart valves or other heart defects have a high risk of developing this condition. People with IE require immediate treatment, for it may affect your heart valves significantly, causing serious complications.



Symptoms of infective endocarditis can be various due to different personal conditions. Common signs may include:

  • Flu-like symptoms, such as fever and chills
  • A new or changed heart murmur, which is the heart sounds made by blood rushing through your heart
  • Fatigue
  • Aching joints and muscles
  • Night sweats
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain when you breathe
  • Swelling in your feet, legs or abdomen

Some uncommon symptoms may also be noticed, such as:

  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Blood in your urine
  • Tenderness in your spleen
  • Janeway lesions
  • Petechiae

However, it should be noted that many other illnesses may have the same symptoms. Therefore, visit your doctor for an accurate diagnosis as soon as possible if you have any of these signs.



Besides bacteria, fungi or other microorganisms may also lead to IE in  rare cases. They usually enter your bloodstream through:

  • Everyday oral activities
  • An infection or other medical conditions
  • Catheters
  • Needles used for tattoos and body piercing
  • Intravenous (IV) illegal drug use.
  • Certain dental procedures.


Risk factors

You may have a high risk of infective endocarditis if you have:

  • Artificial heart valves
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Heart valve disease
  • Damaged heart valves
  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
  • A history of endocarditis
  • History of illegal drug use
  • Mitral valve prolapse and valve regurgitation (leaking) and/or thickened valve leaflets

Some procedures that allow bacteria access to the bloodstream will increase the risk as well. These procedures including:

  • Dental procedures involving the gums
  • Insertion of catheters or needles
  • Procedures to treat infections



Since the symptoms of IE may also be caused by other types of diseases, your doctor needs to make a diagnosis based on several factors. Tests that help make a positive diagnosis include:

  • Blood tests

A blood culture test is the most important test for diagnosing IE. With blood tests, your doctor can identify certain conditions which can be a sign of IE, such as anemia.

  • Echocardiogram

Two different types of echocardiograms will be used to diagnose IE: a transthoracic echocardiogram and a transesophageal echocardiogram. The former one allows the doctor to look at your heart’s structure and check it for any signs of infection or damage, while the latter one can provide much more detailed pictures of your heart.

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG)

This test is used to measure the timing and duration of each electrical phase in your heartbeat.

  • Chest X-ray

Your doctor can use X-ray to see whether IE has caused your heart to enlarge or whether any infection has spread to your lungs.

  • Computerized tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

If the infection is suspected to spread to other areas of your body, your doctor may use this test to confirm.



Patients are often cured by taking antibiotics. But you may have symptoms and complications for years after treatment if your heart valves are damaged by the infection. Surgery to repair the damaged valve or replace it with an artificial valve may be needed to treat persistent infection, depending on your personal condition.

Keyword: infective endocarditis.


Related posts:

What Are the Characteristics of Infective Endocarditis in Children?

What Are the Duke Criteria of Infective Endocarditis?

What Is Acute Endocarditis?

What Is the Pathophysiology of Endocarditis?

What Is Septic Emboli Endocarditis?

What Is Libman-Sacks Endocarditis?


* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.