What is endocarditis?
Endocarditis is a rare but serious and potentially life-threatening condition. It is usually caused by bacteria that enter the bloodstream and infect the lining of the heart or, more commonly, the heart valves.
The following heart conditions can put you at risk of developing endocarditis:
- Some congenital heart conditions
- Heart transplant
- Previous endocarditis
- Heart valve replacement
- Material in your heart (such as a tissue graft)
If you have any concerns, please discuss them with your cardiologist or specialist ACHD nurse.
Looking after your oral health
Symptoms of endocarditis may include the following:
- Fever, chills, temperature,
- Sweating, particularly night sweats
- Muscular aches and pains or weakness
- Unexplained tiredness
- Unexplained weight loss
Causes and prevention
It is not possible to prevent all bacteria from getting into the bloodstream but there are some things you can do to reduce the risk of getting endocarditis:
Good oral hygiene is extremely important as bacteria on the teeth can enter the bloodstream through the gums and settle in the heart.
- Visit the dentist regularly.
- Brush your teeth well at least twice a day
- Avoid body piercing and tattoos
- Do not inject recreational drugs.
It is very important that you inform your GP, cardiologist, surgeon, or dentist if you have any symptoms that concern you. Tell them that you may be at risk of endocarditis before any procedure or operation as you may require antibiotics to protect you.
What to do if you think you have endocarditis?
See your GP as soon as possible – explain that you are at risk of endocarditis and describe your symptoms. A blood test can be performed to help confirm the diagnosis. If endocarditis is suspected, you will need to be referred to the hospital cardiology team for immediate treatment.
It is important that the blood tests are performed before antibiotics are commenced.
Treatment may include:
- Hospital admission
- Intravenous (into a vein) antibiotics for approximately six weeks
- Surgery, if the heart is damaged by the infection
For more information, please contact your ACHD specialist nurse
University of Southampton Hospital ACHD specialist nurses:
Tel: 023 8077 7222 bleep 1481
Advice line: 023 8120 4739
Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Tel: Advice line: 01865 740412
Monday to Friday 8am until 4pm