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Endocarditis - Topic Overview

How is endocarditis diagnosed?

First, your doctor will ask about your medical history and your symptoms. The doctor will also do a physical exam to check for signs of the infection. These signs include a heart murmur, an enlarged spleen, and bleeding under the nails.

Your doctor may also do tests, such as:

How is it treated?

Endocarditis is usually treated with antibiotics. You will probably need several weeks of treatment. The antibiotics must be given long enough and at a strong enough dose to destroy all of the bacteria.

At first you will be treated in the hospital. This is so that antibiotics can be given through a vein (IV). After your fever is gone and you are stable, you may be able to continue IV antibiotics at home. A home health nurse can help you with this.

After you have been treated with IV antibiotics, your doctor may want you to take antibiotic pills. If so, take them exactly as prescribed until they are gone. If your symptoms come back, call your doctor right away. You probably will need more antibiotics if testing shows that the bacteria were not completely destroyed.

Some people who have endocarditis need surgery to repair or replace a heart valve or to prevent complications.

What can you do if you are at risk for endocarditis?

Endocarditis is most dangerous for people who have:

  • An artificial heart valve.
  • Had endocarditis before.
  • A congenital heart defect.
  • Heart valve problems after a heart transplant.

If you have any of these heart problems, you may need to take antibiotics before you have some kinds of dental work, surgery, or medical procedures. The antibiotics lower your risk of getting endocarditis. Your doctor can give you a wallet card to carry that says you need preventive antibiotics.

It's also very important to take good care of your teeth and gums every day. Good oral care can limit the growth of mouth bacteria that could get into your bloodstream.

This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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