Endocarditis is an infection of the inner lining of the heart, known as the endocardium. This condition is most often caused by bacteria that enters the bloodstream through activities as simple as eating and brushing teeth, or through wounds, sores, and conditions such as gum disease and sexually transmitted diseases. Fungal infections may be to blame for endocarditis in rare cases.
While anyone can acquire endocarditis, people with preexisting heart defects – particularly damaged heart valves – make up the large majority of cases. Because of this, individuals with a history of heart problems should be especially watchful for symptoms of this condition, which often include fever, chills, breathlessness, changed or new heart murmurs, and swelling in the abdomen, legs, or feet. It is important to promptly seek medical attention if symptoms occur, as life-threatening complications can develop if endocarditis is left untreated.
Treatment for endocarditis most often involves several rounds of intravenous (IV) antibiotics. Patients typically stay in the hospital for the first phase of treatment or until severe symptoms have subsided. In the event that the infection does not respond to antibiotics, surgery may be recommended to address the infected area or replace a compromised heart valve. In cases of fungal infections, surgery may be used as an initial treatment.
Tampa General Hospital’s Cardiovascular Center practices the latest advances in the diagnosis and treatment of endocarditis. Named as one of America's Best Hospitals for Cardiology & Heart Surgery by U.S. News & World Report, TGH delivers the finest care possible to patients with a wide variety of cardiovascular conditions.