Endocarditis: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment


Endocarditis is known as an infection of the heart valves or inner lining. It occurs when germs enter the bloodstream and settle inside the heart. The infection is usually caused by bacteria. In rare cases it is caused by fungi.

This infection can damage the heart and has to be treated immediately. If not treated, endocarditis can be fatal.

What increases the risk of suffering endocarditis?

The risk is greater if you have a problem that affects blood flow through the heart. This is due to a blood flow problem that makes it more likely that bacteria or fungi will adhere to the tissues of the heart.

There are greater risks of endocarditis when:

  • He has suffered from endocarditis in the past.
  • An implanted cardiac device, such as a pacemaker.
  • A vascular access for hemodialysis or a central venous catheter.
  • Abnormal, damaged heart valves or an artificial heart valve.
  • A congenital heart defect.


Symptoms appear a few days after infection. In other cases, they can develop more slowly. The symptoms will get worse if bacteria or fungi grow in the heart.

Symptoms may include:

Flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, night sweats and fatigue. These are often the first symptoms.

  • Weightloss.
  • Muscle or joint pain.
  • Durable cough and difficulty breathing.
  • The blood under the nails or small purple and red spots under the skin.

If endocarditis is not treated early, it can lead to more serious problems, such as:

  • Heart failure
  • Abscesses in the heart
  • Heart problems.
  • Stroke.
  • Infections in other organs, the brain, the lungs or the kidneys.

Diagnosis of Endocarditis

First, the doctor will do a physical exam for signs of infection. These signs include a heart murmur, enlarged spleen, and bleeding under the nails.

The doctor can also do tests, such as:

  • The blood cultures . These tests look for bacteria in the bloodstream.
  • Echocardiography . This is done to control your heart for problems such as infected areas or defects in the heart valves.
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG). This test checks for problems with the heart rate.
  • A chest x-ray . This is to see if the heart is enlarged or if it has signs of heart failure.

Treatment of Endocarditis

It is likely that you need several weeks of treatment. Antibiotics should be given long enough and in a dose strong enough to destroy all bacteria.

At the beginning the treatment is done in the hospital. This is so that antibiotics can be given, you may be able to continue with intravenous antibiotics at home.

After receiving intravenous antibiotic treatment, your doctor may tell you to take antibiotic pills. If so, you should take them exactly as directed.