Endocarditis, a heart condition, “is an infection of the inner lining of the heart,” the inner lining being the endocardium (Mayo Clinic Staff). According to the Mayo Clinic, the condition “typically occurs when bacteria or other germs from another part of [one’s] body….spread through the bloodstream and attach to damaged areas in [the] heart” (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2011). Endocarditis has the ability to damage or completely destroy the heart when left untreated and can also lead to life-threatening complications; there are treatments that include antibiotics and, in sometimes more severe cases, surgery (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2011). To truly understand the heart condition, it would be useful to evaluate some causes, symptoms, risk factors, explore some clinical trials on the condition, and ultimately, treatments for the condition and prevention methods.
Foremost, the causes, symptoms and risk factors of endocarditis are important to explore in detail to better understand the heart condition. Endocarditis, or infective endocarditis (IE), is caused by bacteria, fungi, or other germs invade the bloodstream and attach to abnormal areas of the heart (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). A common denominator in this condition is that the heart has a structural defect, “especially faulty heart valves” (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). The way that bacteria can enter the body is quite common though- brushing one’s teeth or having certain dental procedures can be the way that bacteria can be absorbed into the bloodstream (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). Other causes include infections or other medical conditions where bacteria can spread from the origin, and catheters or needles where bacteria can enter easily (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2011). Symptoms of endocarditis may develop slowly over time or acutely (Levy, 2010). Though fever is considered a classic symptom, others include abnormal urine color, blood in the urine, chills, excessive sweating, fatigue, joint pain, among other things (Levy, 2010). Risk factors for endocarditis include those individuals who have artificial heart valves, congenital heart defects, and a history of endocarditis, and have damaged heart valves or those who have a history of intravenous illegal drug use (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2011). Those that do have these risk factors are encouraged to use a series of antibiotics to stay ahead of a potential problem (Levy, 2010).
This heart condition is serious and can lead to a myriad of complications, including stroke and organ damage, infections in other parts of the body and even heart failure (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2011). More specifically, other complications include blood clots that can travel to the brain, kidneys, or lung, a brain abscess, jaundice, neurological changes or even stroke (Levy, 2010). The complications are grave and serious and have certainly warranted clinical trials, specifically by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI). The clinical trials have led to advances in medical knowledge and care (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services).
The clinical trials have led to many diagnostic tests that can help in the diagnosis process include blood tests, transesophageal echocardiogram, an electrocardiogram, a chest X-ray, or using a CT or MRI scan (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2011). Treatments for endocarditis include antibiotics, and if the conditions is more severe, surgery (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). Antibiotics usually are given for two to six weeks through an intravenous line inserted into a vein (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). Surgery is utilized only in more serious cases in order to repair or replace a damaged heart valve or to help clear up the endocarditis (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). Prevention is certainly important and The American Heart Association recommends preventative antibiotics and “continued medical follow-up is recommended for people with a previous history of infectious endocarditis” (Levy, 2010).
Levy, Daniel. (2010, May 7). Infectious endocarditis. Retrieved from http://health.nytimes.com/health/guides/disease/infectious-endocarditis/overview.html
Mayo Clinic Staff, Initials. (2011, August 11). Endocarditis. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/endocarditis/DS00409
U.S Department of Health and Human Services, Initials. (n.d.). What causes endocarditis?. Retrieved from http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/endo/endo_causes.html
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