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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Infective endocarditis

Endocarditis is the medical name for inflammation of the inner lining of the heart, including the heart valves. It's usually caused by a bacterial infection, in which case it's called infective endocarditis.

The bacteria grow on your heart valves, and the growths are called vegetations. The vegetations can disrupt the flow of blood through your heart, which can be picked up as a heart murmur. Sometimes, the vegetations break off, travel in the bloodstream and damage other parts of your body.

You're at an increased risk if you have an artificial heart valve, rheumatic heart disease or congenital heart disease. If you have one of these conditions, it's important to let your dentist know before having dental procedures or operations. This is because you may need extra antibiotics to protect you from getting endocarditis.

Most people with infective endocarditis will have a fever at some stage of their illness. Other symptoms include generally feeling unwell with aches and pains, tiredness and loss of appetite.

It can be hard to diagnose endocarditis as other illnesses can have the same symptom. Endocarditis is diagnosed by blood tests and an echocardiogram.

Endocarditis is usually treated with long-term antibiotics. In severe cases you might need heart valve surgery.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed December 2021.

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Page reference: 121065

Review key: HIIEN-121065