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:
- Blood cultures. These tests look for bacteria in your bloodstream.
- Echocardiogram. This is done to check your heart for problems such as infected areas or heart valve defects.
- Electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG). This test checks for heart rhythm problems.
- A chest X-ray. This is to see if your heart is enlarged or if you have signs of heart failure.
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
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.