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Bacterial Endocarditis

Bacterial endocarditis is an infection of the heart valves or inner lining of the heart, called the endocardium. Bacteria in the mouth, intestinal tract or urinary tract travel to the heart via the bloodstream and can cause growths or holes in the valves or tissue, seriously damaging the heart.

This bacteria generally don't cause problems but can be life threatening in patients with heart disease or valve conditions.

Bacterial endocarditis is most likely to occur in patients who have the following conditions:

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A blood test is the primary test for bacterial endocarditis. Three to five blood samples may be taken in a 24-hour period to determine the presence of the bacteria.

A urine sample also may indicate the presence of infection but is not adequate by itself for the diagnosis.

An echocardiogram may detect an abnormality, such as a mass on a heart valve or on the heart wall surface, called a vegetation.

Bacterial endocarditis usually can be prevented by taking antibiotics immediately before and after procedures in which bacteria may be released into the bloodstream, such as:

  • Bronchoscopy
  • Dental cleaning
  • Gallbladder or prostate surgery
  • Some surgeries in the respiratory passageways, or the gastrointestinal or urinary tracts
  • Tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy

People at risk for bacterial endocarditis are encouraged to practice good oral hygiene.

Once endocarditis is diagnosed, treatment usually consists of intravenous antibiotics. Recovery may take four to six weeks and there is a risk of permanent heart damage.

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Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.

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UCSF Clinics & Centers

Heart & Vascular Center

Cardiology Clinic at Mount Zion
1600 Divisadero St., Suite C-244
San Francisco, CA 94115
Phone: (415) 885-3666
Fax: (415) 885-3676
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Cardiovascular Care and Prevention Center at Mission Bay
535 Mission Bay Blvd. South
San Francisco, CA 94158
Phone: (415) 353-2873
Fax: (415) 353-2528
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Congenital Heart Disease Clinic
535 Mission Bay Blvd. South
San Francisco, CA 94158
Phone: (415) 353-2873
Fax: (415) 353-8687
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