Endocarditis

Fast treatment to stop damaging heart infection in its tracks

Endocarditis is a serious infection of the lining inside your heart, usually caused by a bacterial infection.

Endocarditis is caused by a bacterial infection that affects the lining of your heart. Rarely, it may be caused by a fungi. If you have endocarditis, it can cause permanent damage to your heart. You are also at greater risk of having endocarditis again in the future.

Endocarditis most often occurs if you have a specific type of congenital heart defect. These are defects that affect the structure of your heart, such as aortic valve stenosis. If you have had a heart valve replaced with a prosthetic valve, you are also at higher risk.

Symptoms

The symptoms of endocarditis start like any other infection. For example you may have fever and chills. However, other symptoms will indicate that the infection is in your heart, including:

  • Bleeding under your nails, called splinter hemorrhages
  • Janeway lesions—patches of redness on the palms of hands and soles of feet
  • Osler’s nodes—painful red bumps on the pads of your fingers and toes
  • Shortness of breath after moderate activity
  • Swelling in your hands and feet due to poor kidney function

If you experience any of these symptoms, the faster you seek medical attention, the less heart damage will occur.

Overview

Endocarditis is caused by a bacterial infection that affects the lining of your heart. Rarely, it may be caused by a fungi. If you have endocarditis, it can cause permanent damage to your heart. You are also at greater risk of having endocarditis again in the future.

Endocarditis most often occurs if you have a specific type of congenital heart defect. These are defects that affect the structure of your heart, such as aortic valve stenosis. If you have had a heart valve replaced with a prosthetic valve, you are also at higher risk.

Symptoms

The symptoms of endocarditis start like any other infection. For example you may have fever and chills. However, other symptoms will indicate that the infection is in your heart, including:

  • Bleeding under your nails, called splinter hemorrhages
  • Janeway lesions—patches of redness on the palms of hands and soles of feet
  • Osler’s nodes—painful red bumps on the pads of your fingers and toes
  • Shortness of breath after moderate activity
  • Swelling in your hands and feet due to poor kidney function

If you experience any of these symptoms, the faster you seek medical attention, the less heart damage will occur.

Diagnostic tests for endocarditis may include:

Blood Culture

Cultures are often one of the first steps in diagnosing infections. A small blood sample is examined for the presence of bacteria or fungi. Further testing may be needed to determine what treatment plan will work best for you.

Complete Blood Count

A small amount of blood is drawn to look for evidence of infection. White blood cells are immune cells that fight off bacteria, viruses and fungi.

If you have a lot of white blood cells in your blood, you may have an infection.

Echocardiogram

An echocardiogram uses sound waves to create an image of your moving heart. The images of your heart are examined to look for any abnormalities in how it looks and how it pumps blood. The procedure is noninvasive and painless.

Diagnosis

Diagnostic tests for endocarditis may include:

Blood Culture

Cultures are often one of the first steps in diagnosing infections. A small blood sample is examined for the presence of bacteria or fungi. Further testing may be needed to determine what treatment plan will work best for you.

Complete Blood Count

A small amount of blood is drawn to look for evidence of infection. White blood cells are immune cells that fight off bacteria, viruses and fungi.

If you have a lot of white blood cells in your blood, you may have an infection.

Echocardiogram

An echocardiogram uses sound waves to create an image of your moving heart. The images of your heart are examined to look for any abnormalities in how it looks and how it pumps blood. The procedure is noninvasive and painless.

IU Health Infectious Diseases physicians work together with cardiologists and cardio-thoracic surgeons to provide treatment of endocarditis to minimize the damage to the heart. Your treatment may include:

Antibiotics

Antibiotics are delivered intravenously (through an IV), straight into your bloodstream.

Depending on your condition, you can receive antibiotics at home or at an outpatient center instead of the hospital. Receiving antibiotics on a long-term basis effectively treats endocarditis.

Referral to Specialists

If endocarditis causes heart damage, you will need heart surgery to repair your heart.

IU Health cardiothoracic surgeons will advise on the correct procedure for your specific condition. After surgery, you may be referred to cardiologists, cardiac rehabilitation therapists or other specialists.

Treatment

IU Health Infectious Diseases physicians work together with cardiologists and cardio-thoracic surgeons to provide treatment of endocarditis to minimize the damage to the heart. Your treatment may include:

Antibiotics

Antibiotics are delivered intravenously (through an IV), straight into your bloodstream.

Depending on your condition, you can receive antibiotics at home or at an outpatient center instead of the hospital. Receiving antibiotics on a long-term basis effectively treats endocarditis.

Referral to Specialists

If endocarditis causes heart damage, you will need heart surgery to repair your heart.

IU Health cardiothoracic surgeons will advise on the correct procedure for your specific condition. After surgery, you may be referred to cardiologists, cardiac rehabilitation therapists or other specialists.

Patient Stories for Endocarditis

Medline Plus

This website features information about the treatment, prevention and symptoms of endocarditis.

Resources

Medline Plus

This website features information about the treatment, prevention and symptoms of endocarditis.