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Bacterial Endocarditis

What is bacterial endocarditis?

Bacterial endocarditis is an infection of the lining of the heart. This infection can occur in any person (infant, child, or adult) who has heart disease present at birth (congenital heart disease), or can occur in people without heart disease. Bacterial endocarditis does not occur very often, but when it does, it can cause serious heart damage. It is very important to prevent this infection from occurring, if possible.

How does the infection occur?

Bacterial endocarditis occurs when bacteria (germs) enter the bloodstream and lodge inside the heart, where they multiply and cause infection.

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.

How does the bacteria get inside the body?

Bacteria can enter the body in many ways. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), some of the most common ways include the following:

Who is at risk for bacterial endocarditis?

Any infant, child, or adult who has congenital heart disease that has not yet been repaired can develop bacterial endocarditis. Some people who have already had a heart defect repaired may also need to take precautions against bacterial endocarditis for the rest of their lives, while others may no longer need to observe these precautions. According to the American Heart Association, heart problems that put children at risk for developing bacterial endocarditis include, but are not limited to, the following:

Consult your child's physician with any further questions you may have about risk factors.

How is bacterial endocarditis diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination of your child, diagnostic procedures may include:

How is bacterial endocarditis prevented?

Helping your child maintain excellent oral hygiene is an important step in preventing bacterial endocarditis. Regular visits to the dentist for professional cleaning and check-ups are essential. Proper oral hygiene is crucial, including regular brushing and flossing.

Prior to procedures that put your child at risk, such as those mentioned above, one dose of an antibiotic is given. In most cases, the antibiotics can be given by mouth instead of through a shot or an intravenous (IV) line. Your child's dentist, pediatrician, or cardiologist can give prescriptions for the antibiotics to you.

Treatment for bacterial endocarditis:

Specific treatment for bacterial endocarditis will be determined by your child's physician based on:

Bacterial endocarditis is serious. This infection can cause severe damage to the inner lining of the heart and to the valves. The infection can be treated in most cases with strong antibiotics given through an IV over the course of several weeks. However, heart damage may occur before the infection can be controlled. Consult your child's physician for more information.

Click here to view the
Online Resources of Cardiovascular Disorders


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